Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lessons on Taiwanese Identity from the Sunflower Movement

Read the article here .

An excerpt:

"... A popular video on YouTube, ‘Island Sunrise’ (島嶼天光) sung by students from The National Taipei University of Arts has lyrics saying that the dawn’s rays will soon ‘shine upon everyone on the island’ while before long it will be ‘time to come home,’ home referring to, of course, Taiwan. The song is sung in Tâi-gí with accompanying Chinese subtitles. This shows the emergence of an identity which is not linked to ethnicity or linguistic factors, but instead unifies all those who live on the island Taiwan and who share the notion that their identity and interests are linked to a separate territory. The name itself ‘Island Sunrise’ illustrates how this new identity is moving away from previous identity constructions which were shaped around dividing characteristics and are now based instead on the island, an inclusive concept which all people who identify with the island are able to share. The use of characters is also indicative of the emergent identity, as they do not uniquely translate the meaning of the Taiwanese lyrics, but also indicate the phonetic sounds of the Taiwanese lyrics. For instance, the word for ‘we’ traditionally written as 我們, pronounced women in Mandarin, is instead written as 阮們, pronounced ruan in Mandarin, a character meaning a traditional Chinese instrument, but much more closer to the Taiwanese phonetic sound of ‘we.’ Whilst using Chinese characters to express Taiwanese sounds, Taiwanese people upon seeing this would not view this as written Chinese, but merely borrowing Chinese characters to express the Taiwanese language.

These lyrics are accompanied by images of the protest which resonate on a sentimental level as they represent the non-politicised aspects of the protest and draws viewers into the shared experiences of the protest. These range from the students working together to collect garbage, doctors donating their time and resources, rail workers giving out lunchbox meals, all interspersed with images of the various faces of those taking part in the protest from primary school students to seniors. This video serves to show the humane side of the protest, whilst cultivating a sense of national sentiment. The fact it is sung in Tâi-gí only heightens this feeling as it suggests that the Taiwanese language is something that belongs to everyone who identifies with the island Taiwan and who want what is best for the island.

Through promoting these songs in video format on the internet and promoted via social media, anyone who identifies as Taiwanese is able to watch and learn the songs and in so doing are able to express their identification with the movement and their acceptance of the new identity which is emerging.