The transition between the rushed pace of the Osaka railway stations and the immediate sense of calm felt by my first step onto Shodoshima could be best described as inspiring. Something that is not often felt when simply stepping of a boat however, this first step was my first step into the possibilities and potential we as a team could reap simply by lending a hand to the artistic pioneers already present. Communication in any foreign place is complicated but in Shodoshima this usually frustrating linguistic barrier diminished quickly as it turns out that the universal language of gesture and sign provided a mutual understanding between us and the locals which eventually led us to our destination. Overcoming at first what I thought would be a frustrating and meticulous task, communication between the locals; I began to understand the merit of the artists on Shodoshima. Just like the universal language that I share with the people of Shodoshima, the artists on the island try to communicate with everyone by expressing universally accessible concepts. This is essentially the goal of the artists here, to communicate with the people of Shodoshima and by extension incorporate the local people’s skills and lifestyles to collaborate with the expression of the artists here. The underlying goal is to highlight the diversity of personalities and differences within the community here on Shodoshima.
I am constantly reminded of the importance of community everyday spent in the dormotories where all the Hong Kong volunteers are staying. Every task and every chore that needs to be taken care of in the dorm will be handled. This is because of the way that everyone here is designated a task in the dorms to keep everything in order. Be it cleaning or cooking, the dorms are always clean and the volunteers are always fed all because of the careful attention that is paid to the full potential of everyone staying here.
Upon arrival I saw an immense bamboo structure just down the hill from our dormitories set against the backdrop of cascading rice paddies that lead right up to the entrance of the structure. The structure is one that has been worked on for days by a very diligent Taiwanese team. Looking at the structure from afar, the immense amount of effort it must have taken to create such a structure is visible, but it is only when the structure is viewed up close is it possible to see just how immense the project really is. The giant piles of bamboo quickly diminish as the team work on the structure, constantly painstakingly adding pieces of bamboo to the structure. Trucks come and go at least once every hour carrying more materials to be added to the structure. Occasionally the team rest inside the structure but not for very long, as the team is fully committed to the work required. We always offer to help and though our tasks are not as technically difficult as those carried out by the Taiwan team, they still appreciate our help as all hands are available to complete this breathtaking piece of art.
All over the island there is a sense that everyone has a task and goal to achieve to make the Setouchi International Art Festival both welcoming and emotionally evocative for visitors who will be arriving on the 19th of July. From what I have seen so far, I feel that this festival will be a success and will encourage more and more visitors to come each year and in return, attract more and more attention to the beautiful island.
Jack Cheng 雲飛
West Island School '10