The biennial Nan Ying International Folklore Festival sets a pioneering example for other local governments to follow in holding large-scale international arts and cultural events. Held for the 10th time this year, the Festival celebrated the 20th anniversary of its inception in 1996. From October 8 to October 16, a total of 17 troupes from 14 countries worldwide performed in this year’s festival, while Taiwan was represented by nine carefully selected troupes from Tainan. The participating troupes gave performances in 21 of Tainan’s administrative districts, treating audiences to a diverse range of distinctive, colorful and thrilling performances.
After a long process of planning and preparation, invitations were issued and arrangements made for 17 troupes from overseas to come and perform at this year’s festival. These included troupes from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa, representing Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Ghana and Korea.
One of the star performers was Japan’s demon drum group Ondekoza, considered the most representative of Japan’s taiko drum troupes. The powerful combination of strength and beauty in their drumming performances has made them a massive hit with audiences around the world, and their many fans in Taiwan had been eagerly awaiting their return since they wowed people here in Tainan on their previous visit in 2003.
Another of the most notable participants was a drumming troupe from Ghana, the first Africans ever to participate in the festival. Their African talking drum performance, using hourglass-shaped drums whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and prosody of human speech, provided a rare and very special highlight of the festival program.
Another particular feature of this year’s festival was the inclusion of performances listed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritages. There were three troupes of visiting performers with this distinction: Saman dancers from Indonesia, performing the Saman dance of a thousand hands; a troupe from Korea presenting a performance of Nongak farmers’ music incorporating lively dancing and acrobatic movement; and dancers from the Czech Republic performing the Verbunk, a solo dance for men which originated in the 18th century when it was danced by young recruits just before they had to join the army, and which is now an important part of feasts and dance festivities, where it is danced as a demonstration of vitality and happiness. All of these performances bear deep significance in their respective cultures, and were brilliant additions to this year’s festival program.
To provide an especially warm and solicitous reception for the visiting performers, Tainan City Government issued an open invitation for local citizens, communities, schools, businesses, and other private and public bodies to act as friendship facilitators. The response was extremely good, with a total of 92 teams of friendship facilitators formed from those coming forward to fulfill this role. The excellent service provided by these volunteering individuals and entities contributed substantially to the success of the festival, helping the foreign performers to connect more closely with the local population, acting as ambassadors of Taiwan’s culture and hospitality, and ensuring that the visitors took away a positive impression of our city and our country.
The arrangements for this year’s festival program, which distributed the performances of the international troupes to 21 different districts of Tainan, achieved the goal of giving residents in all parts of the city a chance to attend festival events near to their homes. Moreover, this year, for the first time, the festival also incorporated the 2016 Bring the Arts to Your Community event, an initiative aimed at rooting culture and the arts in every district of Tainan, bringing international performances into the lives of all Tainan citizens, and realizing the ideals of cultural equality and arts civil rights.
To celebrate this year being the 20th anniversary of the festival’s institution, the city government’s Cultural Affairs Bureau organized a special ceremony in the Sinying Cultural Center. This commenced with the release of balloons imprinted with the festival logo and the national flags of participating troupes, and concluded with a cascade of colorful ribbons thrown into the air by attending members of the public. The joyous atmosphere of this celebration set the perfect tone for everyone to enjoy this brilliant feast of folklore displays from around the world.
Source: Tainan City Government