Luigi Percca left his home in England at 20 with only $50US in his pocket and no destination in mind. Instead, he wanted to travel the world performing street art. Like most other parents, his mother and father wanted their son to attend college. He nudged the idea, and instead decided to entertain audiences for a living, and to do so throughout the world.

Luigi was 37 when he moved to Taiwan, but couldn’t jump straight into being a street artist. The Taiwanese government requires street performers to register for a permit or license, which is difficult to obtain, due in part to the high number of street artists and the need to pass an extensive test on the quality of the performance. Luigi had no choice but to seek employment legally.

“I did radio interviews for Radio Taiwan International and was in some small Taiwanese movies before officially getting my license,” Luigi told The News Lens International.

Now 42, he lives with his family in an apartment in Taipei. Regardless of job opportunities elsewhere, street performance is his profession.

Why Taiwan?

Luigi had performed in several countries before coming to Taiwan, including Slovakia, the Netherlands and Canada. But Taiwan is his favorite spot.

“People stop, they look at you and keep quiet while being interested in what you’re doing,” he says. “And when you’re finished with your show, they thank you and go on with their day.”

Luigi’s experiences with the Taiwanese during his five years here are positive. A majority of Taiwanese bystanders are naturally curious about his performances. In contrast, observers at most of his shows in England, for instance, shout obscenities and profanities at him, he says.

The curiosity of Taiwanese is not the only aspect Luigi appreciates during his performances. What separates Taiwan from other countries, he says, are the levels of respect and friendliness.

“In England, I couldn’t go into a pub and say ‘hi’ to somebody without them thinking I’m weird. If I sit in a café here, Taiwanese are sociable and warm. It’s such a different mentality,” Luigi says.

Social acceptance

Luigi understands that different cultures view street performances differently. Based on his interactions with individuals from various countries, especially in Asia, he feels that people still regard his profession as little more than a hobby.

“In Asia, street performance is still new. I see people still being very embarrassed to do street performance because it’s not viewed as a job,” he notes.

A greater number of the population in Taiwan and across Asia don’t view street performances as art. This perception stems more or less from older people, he says, adding that such feelings are less prevalent among younger people.

The level of acceptance of spectators, however, is what makes performing in Taiwan special for Luigi.

“As time goes on, the younger generation will come in and have this open attitude of seeing new things,” he says.

Even though he enjoys staging shows in Taiwan, he’s still not adapted to working here. Earning a stable income and providing for his family has been frustrating.

“As much as I want to adapt to being in Taiwan, I’m not settled and still have a lot of plans for my family,” he says.

Edited by J. Michael Cole