The colonists usually say that it was they who brought us into history: today we show that this is not so. They made us leave history, our history, to follow them, right at the back, to follow the progress of their history.
—Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, 1974.
The VT Artsalon (hereafter referred to as VT) has embarked on its long-term project Island Hopping – Reversing Imperialism since 2017. This project advocates art-based redefinition of East Asian geopolitics. As the western Pacific region was used as a pawn in the game of power politics—be it the cold-war idea of 'island chain' or the earlier strategy of 'island hopping' in the Second World War—VT initiated the project to contemplate how this region can shake off the conceptual shackles of 'Asia' imposed by occidental colonialism and regain its self-identity.
This project focuses on the East Asian island chain and reversely traces the route of the wartime island hopping battles. In 2017, VT curated two exhibitions respectively titled Lander and Vessel in collaboration with Filipino curator Patrick D. Flores. Echoing the framework of the project Island Hopping – Reversing Imperialism, the two exhibitions treated islands as the point of departure to investigate the relations between invaders and the invaded, global and local, as well as between active and passive. Notwithstanding the rampant COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, VT led a group of Taiwanese artists to partake in the 'Okinawa Asia International Peace Project' in 2020. Taking an artistic perspective, it reviewed the tragic war history and promoted world peace, for the purpose of transcending the turbulent times plagued by the confrontation and struggle among major powers.
This year, the Okinawa・Jeju・Taiwan Peace Art Exchange Exhibition is curated by Okinawa-based photographer Higa Toyomitsu and graced by the other 9 artists par excellence from Okinawa and Jeju. The exhibits revolve around the sites of violence in East Asian history, such as the Second World War (the Battle of Okinawa), the Jeju 3 April incident, and the recent coup d'état in Myanmar. The exhibition seeks to tackle the enduring legacies of East Asian history in the post-colonial era by means of trans-disciplinary connection and locality. It proactively puts the following question to the multitude: why we, whilst living here and now in 2021, still need to discuss the issues about colonialism and peace.
We expect the people living on the island chain to stop looking westward, but instead face squarely to their home islands per se. Only by doing so can we exorcise the ghost of colonialism that haunts this region, establish connections with our neighbours through island-specific interpretations, and redefine Asia at the subconscious level with discourse.
On the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II (2020), the 'Okinawa Asia International Peace Art Festival 2020' was held in Okinawa. More than 100 artists, historians, folklorists, and peace studies researchers from Okinawa, Jeju, and Taiwan participated under the theme of 'Peace, Requiem, and Coexistence'. The festival was taken place in various venues in the prefecture. Although the festival was under the Covid-19 pandemic, many media still reported the event. It became a trendy topic in Okinawa at the moment.
'Mabuni Peace Project' was launched in 2015 as part of the 'Sudiru Regeneration Project' held on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Mabuni Peace Project was held mainly in Mabuni, Itoman City, the last fierce battle zone in Okinawa, and presented the keywords of 'peace, life, repose, and dignity' with the awareness of Memorial Day on 23 June. With the participation of artists from a wide range of generations, we have seen the possibility of an unprecedented Okinawa art scene.
Since 2017, with the participation of artists from Taiwan and Jeju Island, the many experiences gained from the exchange between the three neighbouring regions have become an important stepping stone for the Okinawa Asia International Art Festival 2020.
This year, Okinawa・Jeju・Taiwan Peace Art Exchange Exhibition introduces ten artists from Mabuni Peace Project, seven from Okinawa, and three from Jeju Island. We hope to deepen the artistic exchange in Taiwan by thinking about art, culture, and peace in Asia.
Thank you very much for inviting us to the 'Island Hopping' organised by VT Artsalon.
Press release courtesy VT Artsalon.