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November 16, 2019

Nearing the End!| Eden Tai | 2019 PH

by edentai

It feels strange to attempt to complete a video when there is still so much to learn about tong cao and the revival effort led by the Taiwan Tong Cao Association. However, it is important to use this remaining time to produce material for both the association and Irene to use for submissions to future funding!

current view of my computer screen 🙂

In addition to preparing the video for output, Irene and I will be giving lectures at the Taiwan Nature Trail Society on November 21st. Our advisor, Kuei Mei, organized this opportunity for us. Irene will talk about papermaking and lead a demo on shifu (paper thread), and I will present some of my work from my degree project and the Maharam Fellowship period. Making this lecture has encouraged a lot of reflection on how my thesis work (which is conceptually inspired by the history and uses of artificial flowers) connects to my current experience recording the tradition of pith flower-making. This will be my first artist talk outside of a school setting, so I am looking forward to trying something new.

Our most recent trip out of Taipei was a couple days ago, to a town called Xiluo in Yunlin County. We were scheduled to meet an artist who has previously worked with tong cao. As we had to catch a bus back to Taipei the same night, the interview was brief, but very worth it! I continue to be amazed at Kuei Mei’s talent for and commitment to connecting people.

still from our trip to Xiluo a few days ago- Kuei Mei explaining that she hopes the tong cao revival will inspire conservation efforts for other natural resources in Taiwan
Irene and Kuei Mei look around Xiluo;
we have some time to spare before we meet our interviewee
spotted one of our teacher’s favorite flowers
Kuei Mei shows us around a bamboo house which she helped construct with a
team as an effort to preserve local knowledge of using natural materials.
This is where we will meet our interviewee.
Cao Chang, an artist who participated in a tong cao exhibition organized by Kuei Mei, speaks to us about what it was like interacting with the material.

During our next trip out of Taipei, we will go to Hsinchu to visit our friend Bawdu, a Hua Yuan member who is the leader in reviving tong cao cultivation practices in his village. Last time we visited his farm plot, the plants were not yet flowering, but this time we will get to see the tong cao in bloom. He explained to us that because tong cao flowers during the colder months in Taiwan, it is a good resource for pollinators who typically have greater access to flowers in the springtime. Fingers crossed that we will get to see some bees!

Until then, I will continue my daily search for cafes with power outlets and keep working on post-production for this video~

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