The art, community and resilience of Indonesian migrants, in the installation TAIWANfest Silaturahmi — Stir
Wu and Lan spent months immersed in the Indonesian community of Tangkáng, documenting its gatherings, festivals, and musical creations on film and photographs, and collecting handicrafts and other items to bring here for installation. Together, they give a rare vision of a culture that values brotherhood, mutual support and creative expression, despite its economic difficulties. Silaturahmi is the Muslim philosophy that refers to the formation friendships and family ties with others.
For Wu, who first discovered the community at a festival in 2019, the project was an opportunity to shine a light on a more positive side of the migrant community. Indonesian migrants number around 2,500 in the small historic port known for its bluefin tuna, sakura prawns and mullet roe. Some sleep in dormitories, and many others in boats floating in the harbor.
“If you do a Google search for migrant workers in Taiwan, what we can find is mostly about human rights issues and forced labor,” says Wu. of their life; they have their own life and how they participate in Taiwanese society is also important.
“It’s a story of independence,” says Chen, who points out that August is the month when Indonesians celebrate their independence – a word that also means “freedom” in the Bahasa language spoken by Indonesians. “Over these few months, we’ve been very involved in working with these fishermen to make all these works of art, and we’ve talked with them, ‘How do they make this community possible? What do they think of their life there and why are they doing all these things to be free?
“It may not be a very high aesthetic art installation,” she adds, “but what we want is for the people of Vancouver, where there are a lot of migrants, to hear a story and maybe reflect on their own sense of being independent.”
When visitors enter the facility, they first step on a blue and white tarp, the one Indonesian fishermen sit on and congregate along the harbors.