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.


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