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ISSUE 42 : (Post-)Traumatic Landscape
Mata Nusantara: Changing Course of the “Southward Expansion to Taiwan”
June 28th, 2019Type: Opinion
Author: Rikey Tenn , 黃鈴珺 (翻譯) Editor: Rikey Tenn
Quote From: 《藝術認證》No.85
Note: With the 3 guiding principles of “imperial subjectification (kōminka), industrialization, and the Southern Expansion Doctorine” as tenants for his rule over Taiwan in 1936, Governor-General Seizō Kobayashi declared Taiwan to be a base for the execution of the Southern Expansion Doctrine. “Southern expansion” became a main axis of official policy for the Japanese Empire in their governance of Taiwan as the propaganda film Southbound Taiwan was presented. Nusantara Archive project attempts to set Malay Archipelago as a framework and method for decolonizing art history. Through a comparative reading of shared histories within the region, the archive can be concatenated in the collective imagination of “the rest” and in the nationalist vision. Local/ regional art practitioners are invited to collaborate in writing/ proposing to inquiry the pre-nationalist approaches that transcend the visions of the nation-state.
“Southward Expansion to Taiwan” is believed to be completed in 1937 containing 7 episodes in total; image courtesy of the National Museum of Taiwan History


From 1939 to 1940, the propaganda film released by the Government of Formosa, “Southward Expansion to Taiwan”(註1), was made to promote the government performance under Japanese colonial rule. Right before the film reached its end, the camera shot moved all the way down to the southernmost point of Taiwan –– the scene which the audience would see a bunch of indigenous peoples doing a round dance as the voice-over narrative went:

“Southward Expansion to Taiwan” is believed to be completed in 1937 containing 7 episodes in total; image courtesy of the National Museum of Taiwan History

What interests Japanese the most is the Takasago-zoku.
Current population is 150 thousand.
They were first called “the Savages”,
now renamed as “Takasago-zoku”.
They are Taiwanese indigenous peoples.
The headhunting custom that was considered undesirable had been practiced by them.
Yet, they are keen to live like civilized beings now.

“Southward Expansion to Taiwan” is believed to be completed in 1937 containing 7 episodes in total; image courtesy of the National Museum of Taiwan History

Over the next few minutes, the film, through its hypnotic camera movement, purported to convince the audiences that they deserved to go southwards, and go even further south. As the screen kept zooming in, what came into sight were the Oluanbi Lighthouse situated at the southern end of Kenting as well as the map of Southeast Asia on which abundant natural resources are noted, mirroring the primary goal set by the Taiwan Development Co., Ltd(臺灣拓殖株式會社). for the purpose of southward advance.(註2)

“Southward Expansion to Taiwan” is believed to be completed in 1937 containing 7 episodes in total; image courtesy of the National Museum of Taiwan History

Now we have come to realize that the doctrine of “Nanshin (southward advance, 南進)” was the key factor contributing to the official policies implemented by the Imperial Japanese Government in the early 20th century, stating that Taiwan would serve as a base for Imperial Japan’s expansion into the south/Southeast Asia as a whole. Back then, being a Japanese politician as well as the author of the book Japanese Rule in Formosa (1905) and Nangokuki (1915), Takekoshi Yosaburō had strongly advocated taking the sea route in the choice of colonial strategy; from his viewpoint, sea shall be considered as the portal towards the south so as to elaborate the inevitability of expansions into Southeast Asia and Pacific islands initiated by Imperial Japan. By pointing out in his book, Takekoshi Yosaburō tried to explain the superiority of “the south” in context of the rise and falls of nations in world history, and even made a bold statement –– “the ethnic Japanese has long been multiracial for having mixed Malay ancestry” –– in order to prove that the ethnicities in Japan, Taiwan and the Malay Archipelago are actively bound together and can be traced back to the same origin.(註3)

“Southward Expansion to Taiwan” is believed to be completed in 1937 containing 7 episodes in total; image courtesy of the National Museum of Taiwan History

Guided by the “Southward Expansion to Taiwan”, our focus arrives on the map of South Asia as shown in the film, a broad region of which maritime boundary roughly includes Deep South of Thailand and extensive coverage of West Malaysia, Malay Peninsula where Singapore is situated, Borneo/ Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the southern part of the Philippines, along with many other islands, constituting its unique seaward-looking realm.



It was when the Java-centered Majapahit Empire expanded to the whole area in the 14th century, the term “Nusantara” has been intended to refer the maritime realm of the Malay Archipelago, embodying a unique sense of identity with regard to geographical boundary. As the Singapore-based scholar, Ngoi Guat-Peng, expressed at the “Revisiting Malaya: International Conference on Political and Historical Thoughts” (hereinafter referred to as “Revisiting Malaya”) organized by the “Inter-Asia School-Modern Asian Thought project (Singapore & Malaysia Office)” in August 2014:

“Southward Expansion to Taiwan” is believed to be completed in 1937 containing 7 episodes in total; image courtesy of the National Museum of Taiwan History

[On the background of Cold War during the 1950s and 60s,] “Malaya” is a historical space in which the ideologies of anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-Japanese invasion and independent-pursuit coexisted. During that time, different political and cultural thoughts, as well as the imagination of nation-building, began to surface in the Malay Archipelago and brought forward the contestation of the boundaries of “community.” For instance, the proposals of Nusantara (Archipelago), Alam Melayu (Malay World), Melayu Raya (Greater Malay), Indonesia Raya (Greater Indonesia), Maphilindo (The Greater Malayan Confederation – Malaya, the Philippines, and Indonesia) and so on, had indicated the clashes of ideologies … Accordingly, to lay our focus on “Malaya” is to, hopefully, sort out the clashes of the trends of thoughts and their competitive relationship before and after the independence, and also to unfold the mapping of people’s ideas towards the imaginative “future state.”(註4)

As pointed out in the above-mentioned content, in what way should we understand that these different political power shifts which were correlated with political ideologies (for instance, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-Japanese invasion) are allowed to be integrated or promoted on the same basis of geographical boundary or through the same premise of historicism (furthermore, the term “Nusantara” is derived from the history of the Majapahit Empire’s expansion; “Alam Melayu/ Melayu Raya” are intended to emphasize the shared ethnicity, Melayu; “Maphilindo” is a newly-created term combining existing words that refers to Malaya, the Philippines, and Indonesia. All in all, not only does each of these terms reflect the difference caused by the process of nation-building but also perform the ethnic inclusion resulted from certain socio-cultural milieu of these imagined communities.

Since April 2017, the NML Residency and Nusantara Archive Project (hereinafter referred to as Nusantara Archive) which was proposed by the No Man’s Land (NML) concerns the countries included in the concept of Nusantara (Malay World), the term applied to the said international conferences, the “Revisiting Malaya” held in 2014 and the “Revisiting Malaya 2.0” held in 2016. The aim of this project is to invite both Malaysian and Taiwanese art groups to visit each other and collaborate together so as to produce documents based on related discussions. Through the Nusantara Archive, we endeavor to construct an alternative framework for the sake of Southeast Asia-Taiwan exchange of experience. In doing so, the open archival information would allow people in the areas concerned to have pluralistic thoughts about the issues and is expected to replace the stereotypical idea of “nation state” with “Nusantara genealogy” as the reference base in a way that is immune from ideological bias caused by the Nationalism. With support from the Digital Art Foundation, many artists are invited to participate in the Nusantara Archive in Taiwan successively, including Okui Lala, Hoo Fan Chon, Syafiatudina, Ismal Muntaha, and Jeffrey Lim; also, several archival handbooks have been published accordingly in relation to Rumah Attap Library, Kunci Cultural Studies Center, Zikri Rahman, Wu Chi Yu, Hoo Fan Chon, Au Sow Yee, and Show Ying Xin.

The plan of 1935 Taiwan Expo

Hence, here I would only mention some representative case studies initiated or accompanied by the Nusantara Archive so as to elucidate how art practices decolonize the shared framework resulted from the historical interpretation of monoethnic nation (for example, the shifting perspectives from “Imperial Japan-centered” to the “Revisiting Malaya”). In addition, we are trying to explain how can the subject of “imagined community” involved in these studies stimulate Taiwanese people’s imagination and interpretation of “Southeast Asia” with the feedbacks from means of anthropology, technology–media, or the comparative reading. Meanwhile, it leads to the further question: why having such a vision is indeed what we need today?



In April 2017, the exhibition “Looking Southwards –– Library Collection of Antique Books and Primary Sources in Relation to Nan’yō (《望見南方》館藏舊籍南方資料展)” launched by the Taiwan Study Research Center at the National Taiwan Library opened up a new opportunity for the audience to easily access resources regarding the shared history (in Formosa and Southeast Asia) by using its colonial archive. As mentioned in the curatorial statement, the Nan’yō Kyōkai Shibu (the branch of the South Seas Association, 南洋協會支部) and relevant units had been established successively in Taiwan since 1910, which aimed to conduct research and analysis on various resources in Nan’yō (Nanyang; Southeast Asia in general), thus contributing to a large number of primary source documents in connection with the local scene in Southeast Asia.

After the World War I, the League of Nations granted Imperial Japan the South Pacific Mandate for the administration of islands in the north sphere of Pacific Ocean that had been part of German New Guinea within the German colonial empire. In 1922, the Nan’yō Chō (Nan’yō Government, 南洋廳) was established by Imperial Japan, stating that Nan’yō Guntō was referred to as Uchi Nan’yō (the inner Nanyang) in comparison to Soto Nan’yō (the outer Nanyang).(註5) In 1936, under the principles of the new governance: the Kōminka (Japanization, 皇民化), industrialization, and making Taiwan as a base for the southward advancement proclaimed by Kobayashi Seizō, the course of modernization in Taiwan had been interwoven with the track of Imperial Japan’s “Southward Expansion” into Southeast Asia as a whole. Regarding the position of Taiwan during the wartime, as referenced in my previous article,“About The Sewing of Time and from That Moment Forward (關於《懶繡停針》,與後來的時間)”, the illustration drawn by Susumu Shima and published in the Taiwan Association for Communications Magazine No.3 (《臺灣遞信協會雜誌》) in 1940, “電波は躍進する(放送今昔物語)”, had been quoted in researcher Hsu Tzu-yu’s essay, “A Historical Investigation of Broadcasting Propaganda to the Southeast Asia by Taiwanese Governor General’s Office (Sotokufu) under Japanese Rule”, portraying the fact that Imperial Japan had used the pathway in which radiofrequency travels from Taiwan to Southeast Asia to symbolize the political doctrine of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Based on the war-related historical perspective provided, we are able to figure out why these two art projects –– the performance which Oz Theatre Company commissioned the artist Au Sow-Yee to direct last year, “The Nanyang Intelligence Bureau”, and the cooperative program between the Open Contemporary Art Center (OCAC) and the Nusantara Archive, “Nanyang Radio Station: Audio Tour for 228 Peace Memorial Park”(hereinafter referred to as “Nanyang Radio Station”) –– share similar contexts. “Nanyang Radio Station” presented the transcript of the audio written by the Indonesian artist invited by Nusantara Archive at the end of 2017, Syafiatudina. Her text was based on her research on the history of the National Taiwan Museum (also served as the second exhibition venue of the “Taiwan Expo: 40 Years of Japanese Rule” in 1935). In 2018, “Nanyang Radio Station” was presented in two ways –– a radio-based installation and an audio-guided tour –– in/ during the exhibition PETAMU Project co-curated by the Nusantara Archive and OCAC. As the audio-guided tour that was carried out in cooperation with the National Taiwan Museum reached its end, all of the participants followed the voice guidance, heading towards Taiwan Radiobroadcasting Booth initially situated in the center of 228 Peace Memorial Park (or Taihoku New Park during Japanese Rule). Despite the fact that the booth is no longer in use, still it is imaginable that the civilians had gathered here and been stunned by the broadcast of Gyokuon-hōsō (The Imperial Rescript on Surrender, 玉音放送) –– announcing the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan in Taiwan, which was served as the industrial base modernized along with Imperial Japan’s expansion. All of a sudden, the Taiwanese general public had no choice but to change their identification since the broadcast was an official announcement of the unclaimed future existing way before the change which people might wish to happen.(註6)

Hoo Fan Chon, "I Feed the Masses while the Masses Provide for Me", PETAUMU Project (2018); photo: Chen Chia-Jen


Another way to get the picture of Nusantara is to examine the migration route of non-indigenous species in both Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Archipelago has long been known for species richness as descried in The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-utan, and the Bird of Paradise, a book by the British naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace:

[…] we shall perceive between Asia and Australia a number of large and small islands, forming a connected group distinct from those great masses of land, and having little connection with either of them. Situated upon the Equator, and bathed by the tepid water of the great tropical oceans, this region enjoys a climate more uniformly hot and moist than almost any other part of the globe, and teems with natural productions which are elsewhere unknown. The richest of fruits and the most precious of spices are here indigenous. It produces the giant flowers of the Rafflesia, the great green-winged Ornithoptera (princes among the butterfly tribes), the man-like Orang-Utan, and the gorgeous Birds of Paradise. It is inhabited by a peculiar and interesting race of mankind — the Malay, found nowhere beyond the limits of this insular tract, which has hence been named the Malay Archipelago. (A. R. Wallace, 1869)(註7)

In 2017, the Malaysian artist, Hoo Fan Chon was invited by the Nusantara Archive to Taiwan and presented a recipe of Asam laksa cooked with tilapia (known locally as “Wu-Kuo Yu”); in the next year, he presented an installation, “I Feed the Masses while the Masses Provide for Me”, and made a music video called “My Earthy Taste” featuring Tseng Zi-yi in the exhibition PETAMU Project. The said tilapia was originally a wretched type of fish which was smuggled out of the Imperial Japanese fish hatchery in Singapore and brought back to Taiwan by two Taiwanese who served in the Imperial Japanese Army during the period that Imperial Japan had been defeated in the World War II in 1945. Yet, the tilapia hybrid “Taiwan Tilapia” has been interbred to make its taste as delicious as sashimi.(註8) In addition, the artist Chang En Man will soon conduct the snail-themed art project again in SAM (The Singapore Art Museum) by the end of 2019. The crucial Achatina fulica (also known as the giant African land snail) is also a widely-distributed species found in Southeast Asia; yet, it was introduced into Taiwan by the public health technician working for the Government of Formosa, Shimojō Kumaichi, for unknown reason in 1933, causing an ecological disaster in Taiwan.(註9)

Jeffrey Lim, " KANTA Portraits Taiwan", PETAMU Project (2018); photo: Chen Chia-Jen

As mentioned above, these two art projects have overturned our established impression of the direction of “southward advance” from north to south in terms of how artists explore the species migration routes in their artistic practices that also enable us to gain knowledge about Southeast Asia in different ways. This year, the Nusantara Archive has continued conducting programs, of which themes are the remaining Taiwanese who had served in the Imperial Japanese Army, the cinchona tree from which quinine was extracted in Java and Formosa, the concept of territorialisation and other related issues, in cooperation with artists in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia as well as the Deep South of Thailand. Accordingly, the Indigenous director, Posak Jodian, and the Malaysian artist, Jeffrey Lim, have gone to the deep end of the jungle in Malay Peninsula, shooting a documentary concerning the Orang Asli. They will adopt the same collaborative approach carried out in the indigenous tribes in Taiwan so as to explore the tribal identity through the postcolonial routes…

Only by carving its way through the paradoxical collective memory in modern times can art practice continue giving valuable meaning to the mission of “Southeast-Asia exchange of experience” that echoes with the New Southbound Policy, and further raise some critical questions –– can it be that it is merely a delusional extension of certain imperial expansion? How shall we overturn the ambition as indicated by the film “Southward Expansion to Taiwan” while figuring out exactly how to identify the new position of Taiwan in Southeast Asia so as to deal with the coming challenge and overall circumstance? Maybe in the eyes of the colonizer, Takasago-soku and those who originated from the south in general had shared similar appearances back then(註10) that also implies the history of which we, the ancestors of modern Taiwanese, have collectively internalized “the Other-ness” following the vision of the powerful Imperial Japan –– “How to deconstruct the image of the Other (from the historical process) and thus its reproduction accomplished” is what the Nusantara Archive endeavors to achieve in the future.

[1] In 2003, Lu Li-Cheng, the director in charge of the preparation for the National Museum of Taiwan History, and Ray Jiing (Jiing Yng-ruey), the dean of the College of Sound and Image Arts at the Tainan National University of the Arts, acquired a large number of visual materials related to the period of Japanese Rule that were purchased by the National Museum of Taiwan History later in 2005. The museum entrusted the project “The Archival Organization and Digital Restoration of the Films Made During the Japanese Rule (日治時期電影資料整理及數位化計畫)” to the Tainan National University of the Arts. For further information, see:南進臺灣.
[2] The target audience of this documentary was obviously the Japanese civilians back then. Since Taiwan played a crucial role in term of the “Nanshin” policy implemented by Imperial Japan in the 1930s, the film shooting had been focused on the industrial development. The fact that Taiwan had served as the base for Imperial Japan’s southward expansion during the Pacific War, and the industrialization of military supplies had resulted in the changes in society in post-war Taiwan, both of which made this documentary seem as the policy proposal for Taiwan under the war system in different periods. See Chen, Yi-hung. “Taiwan from the Viewpoint of Japanese — A Case Study of the “Southward Expansion to Taiwan” (日人觀點下的臺灣—以《南進臺灣》為例). Newsletter of Taiwan Studies no.104 (《臺灣學通訊》). Mar. 2018.
[3] Chiu, Ya-Fang. Chapter I “Meet Taiwan: the Governmental Perspectives and the on Taiwan around 1910” (認識臺灣: 1910 年代前後官方觀點與民間觀點下的臺灣). Imperial Mirage: Imaginations of the South Developed by Japanese Authors During Japanese Rule(《帝國浮夢:日治時期日人作家的南方想像》). Linking Publishing. April. 2017. The mentioned statement of the “mixed Japanese and Malay ancestry” comes from Nangokuki, pp2-3 (qtd. in Chiu).
[4] Ngoi, Guat-Peng. “Introduction: ‘Malaya’ Reconstructed in Contemporary Discourse”. Revisiting Malaya: Political and Historical Thoughts. Inter-Asia School/ Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD). Dec. 2017.
[5] The mandated territory governed by Imperial Japan was divided into inner and outer parts: the former called Uchi (or Ura) Nan'yō referred to island groups known as Micronesia while the latter called Soto (or Omote) Nan'yō referred to the area including the whole Southeast Asia, Australia and India, all of which are specified in a more generic term as “the South”. Here, the interpretation for the region concerned is actually different from that of “南洋”(literally translated as “the South Seas”) in Chinese.
[6] For the full text of the article (with the location concerned), see Syafiatudina and the Nusantara Archive. “Nanyang Radio Station: Audio Tour for 228 Peace Memorial Park”. No Man’s Land, 2018.
[7] Wallace, Alfred Russel, translator King, Hen-Biau and Wang, Eugene I-Chen. The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-Utan, and the Bird of Paradise. Taipei: Marco Polo Press, Inc. May. 2017
[8] Hoo Fan Chon. “How to cook Asam Laksa with Tilapia”. No Man’s Land, 2017, ; Tenn, Bun-ki. The PETAMU Project curatorial statement. No Man’s Land, 2017.
[9] Chang, En Man. “The Change of Taste in Social Classes through Snail Trail – Chang En-Man’s Snail Series”. No Man’s Land, 2018,
[10] see note 3 above; also William Tsai (蔡耀緯), "A Wanderer's Adventure in Taiwan –– Harry Alverson Franck and his Glimpse of Japan and Formosa" (浪人遊臺灣—哈利.法蘭克和他的《日本與福爾摩沙一瞥》), "from passages mentioned in both Owen Rutter’s ‘Through Formosa’(1921) and Harry A. Franck’s ‘Glimpse of Japan and Formosa’(1924) … the ancestors of Taiwanese indigenous peoples came from Malay Peninsula… Franck had pointed out in his travel notes that there seemed to be no difference in appearance between the Taiwanese indigenous peoples and islanders living in southern Japan, even the local Japanese couldn’t distinguish between them. As a result, it can be inferred that both the Taiwanese indigenous peoples and Japanese people are descended of the Malays."
See Also
Sea-change: Reflections on Co-curating SUNSHOWER ,Ong Jo-Lene