Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh via NDTV.com
At 93 years old, former soldier Huang Yung-fu still gets up at 3 a.m. every day to spend four hours painting the walls of his small village with colorful figures from birds and a variety of other animals to celebrity singers and sportsmen.
Yung-fu greets visitors to his settlement in central Taiwan with shoes that are spattered with flecks of color and paint-stained hands, revealing his daily artistic endeavor that has seen him single-handedly stave off developers’ bulldozers.
Known as “Rainbow Grandpa,” his artwork has kept the village safe as the surrounding area has been flattened.
He walks with a slight limp and rolls up his trouser leg to reveal a bandaged knee that was bruised from spending too much time kneeling on the ground to paint, he’s said. But still, he’s determined to continue adding to the vibrant murals that decorate the walls and pathways of the military dependents’ village as a way to ensure its survival.
“We had a letter five years ago saying the government wanted to knock it down to build something new. They said we could take some money or move to a different house,” he explained. “But I didn’t want to move. This is the only real home I’ve ever known in Taiwan.”
The settlement in the Nantun district of Taichung City was once made up of 1,200 homes for veterans and their families. But as the decades-old accommodation became run-down, developers snapped up the land and residents were offered Tw$2 million, or US $61,000, as compensation for new housing.
The determined artist has lived there for nearly four decades, staying even after his neighbors abandoned their homes and only 11 houses remained. That’s when he decided to paint.
“I was the only person left in the village and I was bored,” he said. “My father taught me how to paint when I was five years old, but I hadn’t done it since I was a child. The first thing I painted was a bird inside my house.”
When local university students discovered Huang’s work they launched a campaign to save the village and four years ago the authorities agreed it should be preserve, according to NDTV. Now it is one of the area’s leading tourist attractions, pulling in more than a million visitors annually, mostly from Asia.
“The government has promised me they will keep this house and this village,” Huang said. “I was so happy and thankful.”
Officials say they are seeking to make the “Rainbow Village” a designated cultural area.
Rainbow Grandpa says he likes speaking with all of the visitors, noting, “they tell me the paintings are beautiful. I’ll never get lonely with all these visitors.”