arts24 – Special programme: Taiwan, a culture of freedom and diversity (part 2)

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As Taiwan gears up for key January 13 presidential elections, FRANCE 24 takes you to Taipei for the second part of our special programme on the Taiwanese cultural scene. In this episode, we focus on the island’s cultural diversity. Ranked as the world’s tenth most successful democracy, we look at how Taiwan’s commitment to progressive values are shaping a new generation of artists.  

We begin by exploring Taipei’s vibrant queer scene with drag queen Rose Mary, who’s been performing for five years. In 2019, Taiwan became the first and only country in Asia to legalise marriage for same-sex couples. This culture of acceptance makes Taiwan a refuge for LGBT artists in an otherwise conservative region. 

Watch part one of the showSpecial programme: Taiwan’s artists step out of China’s shadow (part 1)

Taiwan is also making progress in the fight for gender equality. In 2016, Tsai Ing Wen – a proudly single woman – became the island’s first female president. And women make up over 40 percent of Taiwan’s parliament, a record in Asia. Still, Taiwan’s #MeToo movement came late, in 2023, sparked in large part by the Netflix series “Wave Makers”. The show follows a campaign team in the lead-up to a presidential election, and its plot centres around the issue of sexual harassment. We spoke to co-writer Chien Li-Ying, who explained that with the major question of Taiwan’s sovereignty dominating politics, issues like gender equality are sometimes forced onto the back-burner. Yet “Wave Makers” managed to spark a reckoning by showing sexual harassment in the political sphere. 

I wasn’t expecting the show to have such an impact. We often say in Taiwan ‘let’s wait until we become a country or we make peace with China before we talk about other issues’. Many say that because “Wave Makers” put the issue of sexual harassment in the context of the political sphere, some staff then spoke out about being victims.

Chien Li-Ying, co-writer of the series “Wave Makers” 

Watch moreTaiwan’s #MeToo moment: Women speak out against sexual harassment

Taiwan’s cultural identity is also shaped by its Indigenous heritage. While more than 95 percent of the population has Han Chinese ancestry, about 2 percent belong to one of the island’s 16 recognised native tribes, each with its own culture and traditions. Fulfilling an election promise, in 2016, President Tsai Ing Wen – who herself has some native ancestry – issued an unprecedented apology to the island’s Indigenous people for centuries of colonial domination by China and Japan.

Indigenous artists have increasingly been shaping Taiwan’s musical scene, as showcased by the Pasiwali festival, held annually since 2018 in Taitung on the southeastern coast. We meet one of Taiwan’s biggest pop stars, Abao, whose 2020 album “Kinakaian” or “Mother Tongue” – sung in her native Paiwan – won the top prize at the Golden Melody Awards, Taiwan’s equivalent of the Grammys. Dedicated to preserving and sharing her Indigenous heritage, she’s now a mentor to an entire generation of young artists.  

In Taiwan, Indigenous people make up just 2 percent of the population. So this festival is a rare and precious chance to make our voices heard.

Abao, singer

Watch moreBeijing’s narrative pushes Taiwan to rethink its own history

Editor-in-chief: Magali Faure

Production: Natacha Milleret

Presentation: Alison Sargent

Direction: Jérôme Mignard

Images: Jérôme Mignard, Lucie Barbazanges

Editing: Aurélien Porcher, Joël Procope, Gilles Terrier

Translation and coordination: Alice Herait

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