Art saves the village!

06 January 2019 by Roy Preece

Huang Yung-fu’s village was going to be bulldozed to make way for modern development. Ever since he’d come to Taiwan as a young soldier he had lived in Nan Tow built especially for the followers of the Nationalist General Chiang. Yung-fu didn’t want his village to be destroyed. What could he do?

Yung-fu started to paint. That’s what he did. He painted his room; he painted his house all over; he painted the next house. He ended up painting the whole village!  All bright colours: reds, yellows, blues, greens … bold patterns; birds; animals; dogs; cats; famous people.

A few curious people came to see Yung-fu’s painting. Then more and more people came. Today a million people come each year. Students campaigned to save the village. The village is now such a tourist attraction that the government has decided it should not be destroyed after all. Yung-fu has saved the village with his art

Nan Tow was one of many communities especially built in the 1940s for Chiang’s soldiers. Most have been destroyed. So the village is a valuable piece of history too. The village is now known as Rainbow Village and its resident artist and saviour is called Rainbow Grandpa. Once a very utilitarian development, it has become personalised by the residents over the years. Unfortunately many left when they heard of the proposed destruction, but now it is hoped the community will come alive again.

Rainbow Grandpa is now 93 years old but he still spends several hours each day painting. We congratulate him on his achievement and wish him many years of painting yet.

This story is rather like that of the “Pre-fabs” in England. These were utilitarian dwellings built of prefabricated units in factories to replace quickly the thousands of dwelling destroyed by enemy bombing in the 1939-45 war. Designed to last 10 years they lasted much longer and became much loved by their residents who resisted having to move into “proper houses”. Unfortunately, no one seems to have thought of painting them as Rainbow Grandpa did and few if any are left. 

At 93 years old, the former soldier still gets up at 3 a.m. every day to spend four hours daubing the walls of the small settlement with colourful figures, from birds and animals to celebrity singers and sportsmen.

Art is for everyone to enjoy and explore!