When a 96-year-old former soldier learned that his village was going to be demolished 10 years ago, he picked up a brush and started painting – and he hasn’t stopped since, writes Eliot Stein. Published on BBC on November 29, 2018
It’s 04:00 in central Taiwan and everything is black. The city of Taichung’s 2.8 million residents are asleep, its flashing neon signs are off and the only movement cutting through the night is the silhouette of a 96-year-old man slowly painting alone in the darkness.
Every morning, Huang Yung-fu flips on a light, shuffles out of his two-room bungalow in sandals and carries a handful of paint tins into the streets outside. While the city around him sleeps, Huang crouches on a stool for three hours and quietly decorates the drab cement walls, pavement and windows with an explosion of playful murals in kaleidoscopic colours.
What began years ago with a single hand-painted bird on Huang’s bedroom wall has since grown into tens of thousands of illustrations. Today, this whimsical world of cartoon-like people, abstract animals and surrealist art is splashed across every centimetre of concrete in this former military settlement – called Rainbow Village. And now, more than one million visitors flock to the village every year to meet its elderly artist and lone permanent resident, affectionately known as ‘Grandpa Rainbow’.
It’s hard not to smile when wandering the village’s paint-splattered streets. Tiny tigers leap from the walls, whiskered kittens hide in alleyways and a cheery parade of wide-eyed pandas, peacocks and people peek out from the doorways. Stay long enough and you may stumble upon dancing samurais, floating astronauts and kissing sweethearts.
While covering every corner of the village in a vivid dreamscape may seem like Huang’s life work, the self-taught artist only picked up a brush 10 years ago at the ripe age of 86. Not only has he transformed his Taiwanese settlement into a real-life storybook, but he saved it from demolition in the process.
“Ten years ago, the government threatened to knock this village down,” Huang said, daubing red lines on a walkway as crickets chirped through the dark. “But I didn’t want to move. This is the only real home I’ve ever known in Taiwan, so I started painting.”
Read the full article at bbc.com