To promote the development of multiculturalism and implement cultural equality, the National Hsinchu Living Arts Center launched the “New Immigrants & Migrant Workers’ Native Language Picture Book Creation Project” that allows participants to create picture books based on their own experience.
Excellent works are also available online for the public to read. It is hoped that through the picture books, the respect and understanding of multiculturalism in Taiwan will be deepened. Since 2019, the project has cultivated many art talents who are new immigrants and migrant workers in Taiwan.
Yan Yong Zhen (2nd from right) joined an empowerment program “Speak Heart through Paintings – Picture book creation with linguistic pluralism”. (Photo / Provided by嚴永真)
The editor of 【Taiwan Immigrants' Global News Network】has an opportunity to have an interview with Yan Yong Zhen (嚴永真), who is the High Distinction Award winner of 2019 “New Immigrants & Migrant Workers” Native Language Picture Book Creation Project”, to understand her journey of creating a wonderful picture book – Bangau Oh Bangau (白鷺啊白鷺).
“Bangau Oh Bangau” is adapted from a Malaysian nursery rhyme which is also named the same. The picture book is shown with collage art by using a variety of art media, presenting the song in a different form of art.
This is her first time trying to create a picture book. Possessing a great enthusiasm for fine arts, she decided to sign up for the empowerment program and make use of her free time on weekends to join classes.
Artworks “Bangau Oh Bangau” in 2019 and “Bak Kut Teh” in 2021. (Photo / Provided by the National Hsinchu Living Arts Center)
The Unique theme of the picture book
Yan Yong Zhen’s work “Bangau Oh Bangau” stood out from the rest is because of the special theme of the book. She mentioned that she reminisced about her childhood memories in primary school while she hit upon the topic. Back then, her teacher assigned them to cast as characters of the song and learn about nature through singing. The experience is an interesting one.
“My children even learned how to sing this song by herself when I was playing the song at home to seek inspiration for creating the book,” she said with a smile.
Meticulous details in the artwork
Besides the unique theme, the creation of “Bangau Oh Bangau” also takes a lot of time and effort. The instructor of the empowerment program taught them how to use various materials to make collage art, including corrugated paper and kraft paper, etc. The choice of materials allows the object to look more realistic and achieve a different style of art.
In addition, Yan Yong Zhen also made a smart decision while choosing colors to depict the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia (Malays, Chinese, and Indians) in a picture book. Utilizing the colors deemed auspicious to different ethnic groups, red for Chinese, green for Malays, and purple for Indians are chosen to represent each ethnicity.
The picture book is shown with collage art by using a variety of art media. (Photo / Provided by嚴永真)
Wonderful life experiences
Yan Yong Zhen from Malaysia was a teacher in a Malaysian primary school back then. She met her husband in 2002 and decided to get married and settle in Taiwan in 2006. Now, they have built a lovely family with two children.
In 2017, she has obtained a certificate of teaching Malay and cultivated more teaching staff, as well as participated in editing of new immigrants’ teaching materials.
Yan Yong Zhen (second row, first from left) participates in the New Immigrant Language instructor training in 2020. (Photo / Provided by嚴永真)
This year, she took part in the creation of the picture book empowerment program again. As she misses her hometown, the dish "Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶)" was chosen as the theme for her creation, and she hopes to enjoy the process of creating arts wholeheartedly and introduce more Malaysian culture to the people in Taiwan.
Yan Yong Zhen (fifth from right) teaches children of new immigrants to learn Malay. (Photo / Provided by嚴永真)