Mayaw Biho, comes from the Tafalong Community. For a long time, he has made documentaries to care for indigenous issues. He likes to discuss specific problems at different events. In his opinion, documentaries are not just to record events but also to witness the process of culture and people’s reality being documented.
In recent years, he has had concerns for indigenous peoples’ transitional justice. Besides, Mayaw opened a kindergarten in his hometown, Hualien, for which he has planned and gone great lengths to raise funds in many places for 20 years. At the time, the most frequently asked question from student’s parents is how their children can academically connect to high schools even college. Mayaw thinks that the kindergarten aims to explore children’s potential to master their talents in Amis traditional knowledge system. Therefore, children can understand their land as much as possible. He hopes that such a mode can extend to college-level education in the future, providing alternative education.
Anli Genu is an Tayal artist whose Chinese name is Lai, An-Lin. He graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Chinese Culture University and received a master’s degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York, USA. He is currently a senior pastor for the Guangshan Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Anli is one of the few indigenous artists with complete college professional training in arts.
Anli has worked as a pastor and artist for more than a decade. During the time he has witnessed through his artworks that Christianity and indigenous culture can go hand in hand. Anli’s artworks contain indigenous culture while being extremely modern. The strong and contrasting colors in his painting, symbols, portraits, and totems show Anli’s growing-up experience as an Atayal.
Sabu Kacaw is from the Makotaay Community. He worked as a construction worker when he was 17 or 18 years old, where he learned a lot of skills. His first artwork was completed at age around 25 or 26 years old. During his first decade as an artist, Sabu's artworks, mainly woodcarving out of driftwood, relate to his community's issues. At that time, he was not yet familiar with installation art. However, recently most of his artworks are public art, and his individual creations are still in the thinking process.
Sabu insists on staying in his community for the sake of passing down the local culture. He hopes that the local children can learn their mother tongue and understand the mountains and ocean. Apart from making artworks, he sometimes writes songs. Sabu thinks that the Amis language passing down from the elderly is very beautiful. There should be other secrets waiting to be discovered in the language. He believes local youth should be responsible for passing down local culture. Recently, Sabu is devoted to the passing of Amis language, and culture of the age-system to young people.
Haku, a Pinuyumayam artist, is from the Kasavakan Community. He started to create woodcarvings at the age of 42. Before that, he was a farmer and even a traditional leader of Kasavakan. Haku didn’t have professional training in painting, but he loves to paint. He had often drawn a lot of posters, cartoons, or posters when he was a student.
His woodcarving style is distinctive compared to the early Paiwan woodcarving. Haku’s three-dimensional sculptures have more modern character apart from the repetitive traditional totem or symbol in indigenous arts from the past. Instead, his woodcarving is simpler and with a lot of personal emotions.
Sirmam Misakoa, a Tao artist, is from the Iranmeylek Community, Lanyu Island. Knowing his father’s concerns on passing down Tao culture, Sirman was determined to assist his father’s artwork. Sirman learned from his father inch by inch the traditional canoe-making skill, which was on the verge of disappearing. Sirman’s artworks base on conventional canoe. To pass down traditional culture and make a creative canoe, Sirman did extensive research and fieldwork on the building material.
Sirman’s perseverance in having traditional material is reflected in the consistent quality of his canon despite its varying size. Through his persistence for culture, Sirman hopes that he can pass down Tao people’s character of being serious, persistent for self-improvement. As the descendent of canon leaders, he also took on the responsibility to pass down the traditional making of the Tao canoe.
Aruwai Kaumakan was born in Tavalan Community, Sandimen Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan. She is from a Paiwan chiefly family and has been exposed to traditional costumes and jewelry and learned weaving skills early from her childhood. When she was young, she worked in a jewelry store by serendipity and started to learn about craftsmanship and modern jewelry. Aruwai's artworks are weaving, craft design, accessory, and jewelry design. In recent years she has turned to soft sculpture and installation art. Her artworks contain women's self-narrative that women are independent individuals, and they are also essential in their social networks. Her artworks focus on women's lives and consciousness. Aruwai's early works convey a sense of gorgeousness and dignity. However, after Typhoon Morakot in 2009, the people of her hometown were forced to leave. Aruwai's arts shift to care for local people in the hope of pulling them together and healing them and empower them to move forward finally.
Labay loves to create, and her artworks vary in form. She is able to navigate between the traditional and the contemporary arts. In August 2014, she won the first prize of the Pulima Art Award, and she is a high-profile young female artist nowadays.
Shifting between the modern and traditional realm, Labay attempts to find a balance between the two with her artworks and softly convey power. She has been in an art residency in Taiwan, New Caledonia, China, Spain, and so on. Her artworks are based on traditional Truku weaving and involve metal, soft sculpture, installation, video, and public art.
An important Amis artist, Siki Sufin, is widely known for his "Feather" series. In the 80s and 90s, like other indigenous peoples, Siki left his hometown for education and jobs in cities.
Influenced by the waves of indigenous social movements around 1995, Siki was compelled by the idea of understanding his hometown. Thus, he started to create arts in his hometown in the hope of knowing his land better. Under the guidance of Rahic Talif, an influential artist from the East Coast, Siki had his first individual exhibition when he was about 30 years old. He was learning by doing and through which he constantly explored his style and ideas for arts. A majority of his early artworks focus on Dulan, veterans, and legends. Later, such themes have shifted. In 2001, Siki befriended Adaw Palaf Langasan, a performance artist from Tafalong and both co-founded the Du-Lan Mountain Theater, which enables Siki to explore performing arts and he was devoted to the Theater in these three years. Besides, he is teaching in an indigenous studies program and hopes young people can return to their hometown.
As a former athlete, then building designer, now an artist, Milay gradually realizes her dream in arts with her humor and charm. Taiwanese indigenous costumes vary in styles and colors with distinctive totems.
At age 25, Milay was determined to fly to Japan to study design at Tokyo Designer Gakuin College. "I feel a little bit guilty that I only started to learn about Taiwan indigenous peoples when I was in Japan," Milay said while laughing. Milay started to look for articles about her hometown; however, she did not have enough money to buy books. And the first article about Taiwan she was able to get was the free publication in a subway station provided for tourists. Interestingly, she learned about Taiwan in the eyes of Japanese.
After leaving her job as a building designer, Milay turned to create arts and she unexpectedly felt inner calm when making creations. Speaking of the differences between commercial design and art creation, Milay said that customers' opinions are essential, which are "commodities" base on the needs and budget of customers; and artistic creation reflects my state of life and ideas. Therefore, in art, I can find my true self and make a truly "happy" creation.
Etan Pavavalung, a Paiwan artist, was born in Tavalan Community, Sandimen Township, Pingtung County. His art creations range from poetry, prose, reportage, painting, print, carving, advertisement design, installation, and documentary.
Indigenous Land and Name movements in the 90s have enlightened Etan to create arts. He designed the. t-shirt and posters for the indigenous movements with lily flowers, representing indigenous peoples in the hope of symbolizing indigenous identity and the image of indigenous rebirth and redemption. By way of documentaries such as “She with the Patterned Hands,” “Hands that Tell Tales of the Mountains,” Brothers Who Sing of Love and Longing,” “The Fragrant Mountain Winds,” “Mountain Tribe and Sea Tribe,”Etan tries to create an alternative indigenous visual aesthetic juxtaposed with a literary, poetic perspective.
Etan excels at detailed and expressive painting in his visual artwork to deliver his literary views and contemporariness. He developed the innovative visual art form, “Trace Layer Carve Paint,” exhibited at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and Pingtung Arts Museum. He takes for inspiration the sustainable ‘trace’ hidden in the land, mountains, and nature and the repetitive ‘layers’ of slate houses that constitute the texture of civilization. He then ‘carves’ out patterns and lines with chisels and ‘paints’ with the colors that change with the seasons. His artwork connects with ancient indigenous wisdom and converses with Christian eco-theology while searching for internal harmony and artistic thinking in rebirth.
Iyo Kacaw comes from Makota'ay, a coastal Amis community with creative vibes. Early in his junior high school's gem processing program, Iyo showed a high degree of love for art. Hualien, blessed with a large amount of jade, Iyo followed his teacher to climb mountains and rivers to find good stones.
Iyo followed his brother, Sapud Kacaw, and learned about arts from Rahic Talif. At that time, he didn't know any technic and just explored freely. Coming from a low-income family, Iyo’s father has taught Iyo to catch lobsters, cast nets, dive, etc., in exchange for money. Back then, he often went diving and learned the changes and color of sea, the bleaching of corals from which he knew where to find fish, lobster, and octopus, and he also can make a prediction on waves. Iyo's artworks have expressed such power of sea.
It is the most challenging to create an individuality in arts. Iyo still concerns the sea a great deal. In his opinion, the sea has wrinkles, which are intensely tuned, the seabed is empty, and the ecology is exhausted on the edge of dying.
As a photojournalist for "921 Minbao" and "Taiwan News," Watan Wuma saw victims suffering from the 921 earthquakes in 1999, and many were indigenous. After that, he decided to take a break from journalism. Watan assisted in stage shooting in Molin Wang's project in the Body Phase Studio. And he was the stage designer/manager for Wang’s "Black Hole" series. In 2003, Watan assisted Seiji Shimoda's Performance Art Workshop in the Huashan 1914 Creative Park. Watan was invited to present his artwork "No Photography" as his final project for the workshop. From then on, he was bonded with art.
In 2004, as a performance artist, Watan showed his artwork "Ancestor's Face" in the Japan International Performance Art Festival planned by Seiji Shimoda. Although Watan's early artworks did not break away from theater elements with scripts and monologues, they were still conceptually mixed with more narrative and storytelling. Therefore, his early works were amateur. In the "Ancestor's Face," Watan's concern about indigenous peoples' life and laborers, have shown anti-globalized capitalism narrative. After 2004, with Shimoda's promotion, Watan's artwork was shown extensively in Beijing, Macau, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Ireland, etc.
Walis Labai used to regard himself as Chinese and Taiwanese, thinking that the mainland across the Taiwan Strait was where he should go to. Now he believes his hometown, Meixi, once segregated from other Han-Taiwanese towns, is the place he should return to. After studying abroad in the United States, he went back to Taiwan to teach in an indigenous studies program at Chung Yuan University.
He constantly contemplates indigeneity and hunting culture, which he believes can be adjusted with time in contemporary society. He also has long-term concern on indigenous issues, advocating for indigenous traditional culture. Walis thinks that despite the disintegration of indigenous communities due to population outflow, colonization along with modern technology (the internet) that brought into indigenous communities have connected people who live away from their hometown.
He got a lot of inspiration from the history of antiques. The charming smell of watercolor, calligraphy, and books stimulates his creativity. Walis also gains creative momentum for his mother, who is a ritual specialist and knew some traditional shamanism. He thinks that the "modernity" of indigenous art is not yet established because indigenous peoples are stuck in their identity issues and, therefore, conservative. Instead, every moment should be an essential piece that constitutes modernity, but how to skillfully cut the pieces meticulously and delicately for exploration still needs more discussions to answer.
Yuma Taru is a practitioner in documenting the history of indigenous fiber clothing. To see Tayal's traditionally-made weaving in her eyes and its colors, patterns, and texture, Yuma started fieldworks in her twenties and interviewed elders who were born before 1901. At the same time, she traveled to many countries to see the Tayal weaving sent to Europe, America, and East Asia in the 17th century. Yuma has visited more than 200 indigenous communities and produced 40 books on genealogy from a holistic Tayal perspective apart from a focally anthropological study. Yuma has traced back the Tayal history from a hundred years ago and foresaw the possibility for Tayal in the next hundred years from now.
After the second decade of her field research and long-distance travel, Yuma decided to revitalize the traditional Tayal weaving in her community. Thus, she established Lihang Studio, where most workers are local women. The studio has become a financial source for many families and a place for the local women to support each other and source of their financial independence.
From 2000 to 2009, the studio has replicated over 500 pieces of Tayal weaving, most of which are collected by various museums, providing income for the local women. Above all, and local women have obtained weaving skills that allow them to take root culturally in their hometowns.
Tafong Kati is Pangcah from Tafalong community. After retiring from the army, he learned woodcarving from a studio in Hualien. Like many other indigenous community-based artists, Tafong uses easily accessible material, driftwood, as the main medium of his artworks.
While concentrating on picking up the driftwood, his inspirations come as Tafong gazes, touches the driftwood. For Tafong, his creativity is not limited by one single medium, and the contemporary Pangcah woodcarving environment has encouraged him to explore various materials. His artworks aim to convey the contexts of indigenous communities amid the clash between the traditional and modern lifestyles. His shaping of artworks features a sophisticated combination of various wood and different materials. Tafong's recent creations are all finished with long-time investment. And they are in the spectrum of delicate and rough.
Ruby Swana is an Amis artist born in Taitung County. Before starting her artistic career in 1994, she worked for twelve years as a shop window designer in Taipei. From her working experience, Ruby had learned the usage of natural material and its spirituality and aesthetics. In 1995 Ruby worked as the visual designer for the Mountain and Sea -- Amis Woodcarving Festival, after which her life changed, and she, therefore, returned to the East Coast to start her artistic career to this day.
Ruby's artworks are mainly made of natural materials. However, she also tries to use different media. Her artworks reveal her preferences in a different stage of life and the message she aims to convey. As a female, Ruby is fully aware of her physical limitations. Therefore, when she was working on her large installation work "Driftwood," she strategized to slowly pile up pieces of driftwood, whether big or small, thick or thin, then gradually shape them up. Her large artwork is done in such way, which is characterized by lightness and dynamic dignity.
Kati Lawas, an Amis artist, grew up in a city away from his hometown. For a long time, he felt mentally uprooted from his culture. After graduating from Hualien Normal College, he returned to his hometown and worked in the local school where he taught traditional dance with support from the school principal and students' families. Initially, he intended to teach the students traditional dance, and Kati gradually developed his choreographic style.
Therefore, in 2005 he established a modern dance theater to give local children professional training. Moreover, he went to the Ph.D. program of Graduate Institute of Dance at Taipei National University of the Arts for which he did extensive field studies in traditional dance and theory to teach local children. Most children who entered the theater are in elementary school—his teaching focus on making the children concentrate on interacting with the dance at the given moment. Kati sees his students as treasures to whom he holds solid educational responsibility.
Kati has initially analyzed some phenomena regarding indigenous contemporary/modern and music/dance troupes: first, most works from the Formosa Aboriginal Singing and Dance Troupe were passed down and presented in the form of contemporary art. Second, some amateur dancers, although without professional training, are becoming a new type of dancer. They have a uniquely theatrical style and are more tourist-oriented and localized groups. He once again emphasized that the one’s ability to deeply understand body is far more important than to have professional training.
Malay Makakazuwan, a Puyumayan artist from the Pinaski community, Taitung, grew up with her mumu (grandparents) and younger brother in Pinaski. Makakazuwan's parents are the first generation of urban indigenous in her family. Her father became a career soldier after graduating from the military academy. Her mother went to Taipei to study in a nursing program and moved to Hualien to work in a hospital until now. After junior high school, Makakazuwan moved to Hualien to live with her mother. During that time, she came back and forth between Hualien and her hometown, and such experiences have provided her a lot of inspiration in art.
She finished her art education in senior high schools from Kaohsiung and Taipei. After graduation, Makakazuwan worked for a design company in Taipei, where she faced stereotypes and discrimination against indigenous peoples. At the same time, she felt upset that she failed to express feelings through illustrations and graphic design on such oppression
Therefore, she decided to study Ethnic Relations and Culture at Dong Hwa University. She gained an identity when she found her story resonated with the indigenous history she learned from college.
She believes that creativity lies in the process of finding a self-identity. And a self-identity is found by contrasting one's life experience with artworks that are based on legends, oral history, and made of natural material, plants that once existed within an ethnic group.
Kulele Tapiwulan, a Paiwan artist, was born in Maer Village, Sandimen Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan. Initially, he learned from his senior artists from who he explored his creativity. Due to his dedication to art, in 2006, Kulele was chosen to participate in the first Wanderer's Project by the Cloud Gate Dance Company, for which he went to Japan to learn arts from various fields. During the project period, Tapiwulan observed that Japan is rich in contemporary art; however, few artworks come from artists' own cultural experiences. In his opinion, traditional culture provides creativity, rather than a burden. Immersion in traditional culture can make one opened-minded to pursue aesthetics in contemporary cross-cultural and international contexts. His artworks don't have a distinctive Kulele style because the style he creates is not easy to define.
Rukai artist, Pakidafi Rusanokan, was born in Wutai Village (Shenshan Community), Wutai Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan. Rusanokan's grandfather held a great significance for Rusanokan's artistic career that his grandfather often taught Rusanokan painting on slate stones, wood grain, and carving skills. After leaving the army, Rusanokan studied agronomy, operated a greenhouse, and worked as a civil servant in his hometown. However, his greenhouse was destroyed twice due to typhoons, and his desire for art has grown strong. Therefore, he quitted his job and decided to work as a full-time artist. Rusanokan's artworks are mainly woodcarving, stone carving, and multi-media. His artworks contain local legends and stories conveying deep emotional and cultural connections with his hometown.
In recent years, his artworks have been archived in Shu Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, Chimei Museum, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, etc. He is now based in his Amuge Studio and is committed to promoting art education and passing down Rukai culture.