Photographers' Blog

Drumming to the sound of a different beat

October 18, 2010

The Drumming Inmates from Taiwan from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

While shooting this feature on prisoners trying to reform themselves through the art of traditional drumming, I was reminded of a question once posed to me by a lecturer when I was 18. Are all men inherently evil or is it society that makes them so?

Inmates perform a drum routine onstage with the U-Theatre group in Changhua, central Taiwan October 2, 2010. An arts program at Changhua Prison by the U-Theatre drumming group has given inmates a chance to perform annually for the public outside prison grounds. The project aims to give the inmates an opportunity to discover spiritual calm through drumming and meditation. The inmates wear masks or traditional facial paint to conceal their identities when they appear in public.   REUTERS/Nicky Loh

When I first met the inmates at the Changhua Prison to work on this feature, I was surprised to find the drum trainees, whose ages ranged from 18-25, well-mannered and soft spoken. Far from the dangerous criminals that I had etched in my mind. Rather, they were just men who were no different than I was. I felt guilty for having such exaggerated thoughts in the first place.

Inmates perform a drum routine onstage with the U-Theatre group in Changhua, central Taiwan October 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Hearing their stories during the interviews made me realize that they were basically boys whose lives took a turn in the wrong direction because of a lack of good guidance and peers. I count myself fortunate to have been able to grow up with a decent education and support from my friends and family.

An inmate practices applying traditional facial paint on prison grounds before a performance with the U-Theatre group in Changhua, central Taiwan October 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

So, I commend the arts group for creating such a program that provides the inmates with a goal to work towards. Aside from the drum training, the participants are also trained spiritually by practicing meditation and martial arts to help build up the prisoners’ confidence for life outside the prison walls. I immediately noticed the glimmer in their eyes as they performed during a practice rehearsal for Reuters coverage of the event. There is optimism in this group of young men and you can feel it in their energy and music.

There is no guarantee where their lives will head after they serve their sentences, but when they make the next choices, I sincerely hope the achievements they have gained from this program will be able to make them believe that they deserve a second chance in society.

An inmate performs onstage with the U-Theatre group in Changhua, central Taiwan October 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

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strong pictures, short but moving piece. thumbs-up

Posted by jes_chan | Report as abusive
 

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