Paiwan artist exhbits works in Spain

The Exchange Exhibition of Wood Sculpture, Taiwan vs. Spain, was held at the Wood Sculpture Museum of Sanyi Township in Miaoli County of Taiwan from July 20 to September 28, 2009. Following this, the exhibition traveled to a modern art museum housed in a 14th century building at the Royal Shipyards (Reales Atarazanas) of Valencia, where they were on display until the summer of 2010.

Kamuli Pelen is a member of the Paiwan tribe from Pingtung County in southern Taiwan. For more than a decade he has carved art from driftwood and other types of wood, mostly based on traditional themes. After placing 3rd in a national indigenous wood sculpture competition he was invited to include two of his works in the Exchange Exhibition of Wood Sculpture, Taiwan vs. Spain. One is entitled “Mother Forever”. This was sculpted in 1998 and measures 170 x 40 x 50cm. It features two hundred pace pit vipers. This snake is a sacred animal of the tribe. It gets its name from the claim that once bitten, one will only be able to walk 100 paces before succumbing to the lethal venom. According to Paiwan legend, the hundred pace pit viper protected the first members of the tribe before they emerged from an earthenware vessel, which makes up the base of the sculpture. At the top is a depiction of a member of the Paiwan tribe. This snake is thought to be as protective of the Paiwan tribe as a mother is of her child.

The other work is entitled “Cooperation”. It was carved in 1997 and measures 165 x 50 x 40cm. It shows two males of the Paiwan tribe. One is pulling on a rope to help the other scale a steep rock face. The elders of the Paiwan tribe often reminded the youth that it is very important to help one another while hunting in the mountains.

Pelen’s carvings have received much praise as they clearly and beautifully depict traditional Paiwan culture. Pelen says that his works have not been polluted by modern influences and his motives for creating wood sculpture have remained pure. “I create wood carvings to pass on my cultural heritage. When I leave this world, I will not be able to tell the stories of my tribe or teach its traditions. This is what I can leave behind for the younger generations,” he explains.

His works are in the collection of the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts and on display at the Pingtung County Cultural Center and other locations in Taiwan.

Some of Kamuli Pelen’s works are featured on the Tribe-Asia Website. If interested in purchasing or learning more about this artist’s works, please e-mail to 

 "Mother Forever" by Kamuli Pelen

"Cooperation" by Kamuli Pelen 

Kamuli Pelen carves a tabletop featuring traditional Paiwan motifs.