4 French awarded for contributions to cultural exchanges with Taiwan

Four French citizens were honored with the French-Taiwanese Cultural Foundation Award Monday for their long-term dedication to Taiwan research and contributions that enhance cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Europe.

Veronique Arnaud, an honorary research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies under the National Center for Science Research of France, is one of this year's award's recipients, all of whom have formed a deep bond with Taiwan with their passion for Tao culture, sinology, film production and dance, respectively.

The other award recipients are Stephane Corcuff, a professor of political science at France's Lyon University; film director Jean-Robert Thomann; and choreographer, stage designer, director and visual artist Christian Rizzo.

Arnaud began her research of the Tao people, an Austronesian ethnic group native to Orchid Island off Taitung County in southeastern Taiwan, in 1971. Since then, she has made 12 long-stay visits to the remote island to collect first-hand information and document Tao culture, language and folk music. She has collated a massive volume of sound recordings, which Arnaud describes as valuable to "a language that has almost disappeared."

Arnaud also touted her documentation as valuable for those wanting to learn their mother tongue from scratch. "Passing on is the most beautiful gift," she said.

For 48-year-old documentary director Thomann, he has been telling stories about Taiwan through the camera lens for nearly half a century, creating 16 documentaries that touch upon various themes, from Taiwanese opera to elections, as well as two dramas shot in Taiwan.

Corcuff, born in 1971, is the director of the Taipei branch of French Centre for Research on Contemporary China. He is the author of a book published in 2004 titled "Warm Day with Gentle Breeze (????)," in which he writes in Chinese about the mainland migrants to Taiwan and the change of national identity.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of Culture (MOC), Corcuff's research, teaching and writing about issues concerning Taiwan are continuing, with many works focusing on the study of the identity problem in Taiwan from political and historical angles.

Born in 1965, Rizzo is director of the Centre Choregraphique National de Montpellier, which has been renamed the International Choreographic Institute (ICI).

Rizzo said in a written statement for the award presentation ceremony that his relationship with Taiwan began 13 years ago when he visited the island for the first time as an artist-in-residence.

Since then "a long and beautiful story" between himself and Taiwan has unfolded, he said.

In a video prepared for the award ceremony, Rizzo recalled that after his artist-in-residence program ended, he cried on the flight back to France while thinking of his life in Taiwan.

At that time, he pledged to go to Taiwan again as soon as possible, he said, and the wish was later realized.

Having worked with local artists in Taiwan over the years, Rizzo expressed hope that the Taiwan government can listen carefully to Taiwanese artists' voices and needs.

The awards were jointly presented by Taiwan's Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (???) and Jean-Robert Pitte, permanent secretary at the French Learned Society at the Institute de France in Paris.

All four award winners, apart from Rizzo, attended the ceremony to receive the award certificate and a cash prize of 12,500 euros (US$14,523).

The French-Taiwanese Cultural Foundation was established in 1996 under the aegis of the French Academy for Social and Moral Sciences with the purpose of "awarding every year two prizes for artistic or literary works that shed light on relations between Taiwan and Europe and/or contribute to the enhancement of cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Europe," according to the MOC.

Unlike previous years, the award was unprecedentedly handed out this year to four people rather than two.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel