The Island of Strangers

Taiwan has a torn history. After being colonised by Japan for fifty years, the end of the second world war marked the beginning of the long reign by Chinese dictator Chiang Kai Shek. Many Taiwanese struggle with their identity: do they feel Japanese, Chinese or Taiwanese? Chen Jhen returned to her homeland in search of a national identity, collecting old documents, photographs and stories. One of her photo books shows how school uniforms changed over time from a Japanese military style to traditional Chinese costumes, to a mixture, and finally no uniform at all. Additionally, Jhen went in search of the former statues of Chiang Kai Shek. From the 45,000 that have been removed, 250 found a new home in Cihu Memorial Sculpture Park in Taoyuan. But Jhen also discovered ‘leftovers’ in old workshops, back yards and storage depots. A series of striking pictures capture these ‘ghosts of Chineseness’. A video made through the eyes of fourteen statues in different locations leads to the final conclusion: there is no such thing as one Taiwanese identity – there are many.

Jhen Chen