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Taiwan opera group set to continue Africa initiatives

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Well known Taiwanese opera troupe Ming Hwa Yuan Arts & Culture Group (MHY, 明華園戲劇團) yesterday held an inheritance ceremony, in which group leader and face of the company Sun Tsui-feng (孫翠鳳) passed the responsibility of arts education to the group's third generation of members.

The troupe was established 85 years ago, and is currently one of, if not the most influential Taiwanese opera groups that exists today. With a modern day twist to the art form know locally as the Ke-Tsai Opera (歌仔戲), the group was one of the first traditional arts to shed its traditional limits to become an international production representing Taiwan.

According to a troupe representative, the group first introduced the art form to Africa in 1999. The group then aimed to establish its first orphanage fund for Africa, with Sun leading a charity fundraising tour to Africa 8 years ago. While visiting orphans in Malawi, Sun was apparently so impressed by the children that she was inspired to bring Taiwanese opera to Africa.

A team of third-generation MHY performers led by Sun's apprentices Li Ling-chen (李綾真) and Chen Chao-hsien (陳昭賢) will reportedly travel to orphanages founded by the Amitofo Care Center (阿彌陀佛關懷中心) in Swaziland and Lesotho to teach traditional opera to children from the first grade to the third.

Chen stated that their goal this time is to make sure that their students are able to learn the entire piece of The Cave of the Silken Web (盤絲洞), an opera based on a chapter from famed Chinese novel Journey to the West (西遊記), within the span of two weeks. The children will then be invited to perform in Taiwan at the end of the year.

During an interview Sun stated that precautionary measures had to be taken for all 7 team members in light on the ongoing Ebola outbreak. The current pandemic reminded her of her trip to Malawi 8 years ago, Sun said, when her team had to take quinine due to an outbreak of Malaria.

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Ming Hwa Yuan Arts & Culture Group third-generation performer Li Ling-chen (李綾真) performs as Tripitaka in one of the troupe's Journey to the West opera pieces. A team of third-generation MHY performers will travel to orphanages in Swaziland and Lesotho to teach Taiwanese opera to children. (CNA)

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