Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lessons on Taiwanese Identity from the Sunflower Movement

Read the article here .

An excerpt:

"... A popular video on YouTube, ‘Island Sunrise’ (島嶼天光) sung by students from The National Taipei University of Arts has lyrics saying that the dawn’s rays will soon ‘shine upon everyone on the island’ while before long it will be ‘time to come home,’ home referring to, of course, Taiwan. The song is sung in Tâi-gí with accompanying Chinese subtitles. This shows the emergence of an identity which is not linked to ethnicity or linguistic factors, but instead unifies all those who live on the island Taiwan and who share the notion that their identity and interests are linked to a separate territory. The name itself ‘Island Sunrise’ illustrates how this new identity is moving away from previous identity constructions which were shaped around dividing characteristics and are now based instead on the island, an inclusive concept which all people who identify with the island are able to share. The use of characters is also indicative of the emergent identity, as they do not uniquely translate the meaning of the Taiwanese lyrics, but also indicate the phonetic sounds of the Taiwanese lyrics. For instance, the word for ‘we’ traditionally written as 我們, pronounced women in Mandarin, is instead written as 阮們, pronounced ruan in Mandarin, a character meaning a traditional Chinese instrument, but much more closer to the Taiwanese phonetic sound of ‘we.’ Whilst using Chinese characters to express Taiwanese sounds, Taiwanese people upon seeing this would not view this as written Chinese, but merely borrowing Chinese characters to express the Taiwanese language.

These lyrics are accompanied by images of the protest which resonate on a sentimental level as they represent the non-politicised aspects of the protest and draws viewers into the shared experiences of the protest. These range from the students working together to collect garbage, doctors donating their time and resources, rail workers giving out lunchbox meals, all interspersed with images of the various faces of those taking part in the protest from primary school students to seniors. This video serves to show the humane side of the protest, whilst cultivating a sense of national sentiment. The fact it is sung in Tâi-gí only heightens this feeling as it suggests that the Taiwanese language is something that belongs to everyone who identifies with the island Taiwan and who want what is best for the island.

Through promoting these songs in video format on the internet and promoted via social media, anyone who identifies as Taiwanese is able to watch and learn the songs and in so doing are able to express their identification with the movement and their acceptance of the new identity which is emerging.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

To preserve and propagate a culture, it take committed individuals

We need more men like Mr. Wang

A manager at a technology company uses his weekends to teach schoolchildren of all ages Atayal ceremonies, dances and language.
Over the past 12 years, Wang Yung-hsiung (王永雄) — an Atayal from Tatung Township’s (大同) Sungluo community in Yilan County — has taught hundreds of students in northern Taiwan.
Having grown up in an Atayal community, Wang is fluent in that Aboriginal language. He moved to Taipei to find work after finishing junior-high school.
When he turned 40, Wang learned the Wade-Giles system for writing romanized Chinese and used the system to help him pass the Atayal language proficiency certification test. He became a registered teacher of the language after taking additional training courses.
“It is very embarrassing to hear others wondering why an Aboriginal cannot speak their own language,” Wang said.
Recognizing that Aboriginal children growing up in the cities lack the environment in which to learn their native language, Wang, who lives in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Xindian District (新店), started driving around Taipei and New Taipei City on weekends to teach Aboriginal children the language.
Wang teaches using games, or by visiting the children’s families to introduce them to Atayal traditions and dances.
He also helped form basketball teams for girls in an effort to bring the people together, he said.
Wang said he had considered tatooing his face — as was customary for an adult Atayal — but his wife talked him out of it.
Wang said his wife initially had also been against his running around so much, complaining that he spent too little time with his family.
“She did not understand at the time,” Wang said.
However, as a compromise, he brought her along to classes on the weekends, he said.
Wang said he encourages his own children to use the Atayal language.
He said that upon his retirement in two years time, he would like to focus all his work on preserving Atayal traditions.
Source: Taipei Times 2014.2.14

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Real-life Taiwan Amis Parallel to the New Zealand Maori Story in the Movie Whale Rider

The movie, Whale Rider, centers around the fictional story of an Austronesian Maori Chief who raises his granddaughter because his son, a fine art sculptor, leaves the troubles of the local Maori village with its fading culture for the big cities of Europe after the death of his wife and son in child-birth. His art is a union of traditional Maori sculpture with ultramodern art. Due to the efforts of the granddaughter to preserve Maori culture and renew the family and village, the son eventually comes back to the village and becomes reconciled with his heritage.

Following is an article by Jerome Keating, author of several books on Taiwan including Island in the Stream: A Quick Case Study of Taiwan's Complex History, Taiwan: The Search for Identity, Taiwan: The Struggles of a Democracy, and The Mapping of Taiwan.

Keating writes of Yosifu, an Austronesia Amis artist from Taiwan who also heads to Europe to make a name for himself through his art. Unlike the fictional character, Yosifu actively promotes his culture and homeland. He also comes back to encourage his community.

A growing grassroots movement

Arts may be giving more people a reason to volunteer

By Jerome Keating  /  Contributing reporter

Yosifu recently completed a workshop with Amis youth from Taitung County.

Photo courtesy of the Taiwan Cultural & Creative Platform Foundation

Yosifu, a fine arts painter and Amis Aborigine, has just completed an art workshop for some of Taitung’s Aboriginal youth.
“I came back [to Taiwan] and did it because I wanted to give back to my people and help other indigenous artists develop,” he told the Taipei Times.
Yosifu, who lives in Edinburgh, promotes Taiwan’s indigenous culture throughout Europe.
As one of the first Taiwanese Aborigines to achieve international artistic success and recognition, he typifies the need for involvement at the grassroots level.
The Council of Indigenous Peoples and government agencies can set policies and hold conferences such as the recent 2013 International Austronesian Conference, but the level, extent and degree to which policies and actions are carried out often depends more on people at the grassroots level. Fortunately, in Taiwan that level is increasing.
There’s no one event or phenomenon that triggered this recent grassroots surge of involvement, though the increased use and ability of Facebook, YouTube and other social media may be a factor. In addition, art is a common denominator in many of the new grassroots projects.
Elise Tseng (曾珮貞) left a career in the art industry in 2011 to take charge of the Taiwan Cultural & Creative Platform Foundation.
“I saw that despite Taiwan having many artists, [art] had not yet touched and explored its basic base, namely its indigenous people,” Tseng said.
Her foundation sponsors workshops such as the one held by Yosifu. After researching Australian models of promoting indigenous culture, Tseng and the foundation used them to organize art and festivals.


Book Showing Ancient Austronesian Motifs Used in Contemporary Products

This book can be purchased at the Taiwan Shop across from National Taiwan University in Taipei.