Hualien Association of Indigenous Industries: Fusing the Traditional and the Modern
Traditional indigenous community lifestyles are gradually disappearing and economic opportunities in indigenous communities are limited, forcing many residents to move elsewhere in search of employment. This has made it difficult for traditions, history, art forms and language to be passed on, creating further cultural crises. The Hualien Association of Indigenous Industries was established to attempt to reverse some of these trends.
This association serves as a non-profit platform for the marketing and promotion of cultural and creative products produced by indigenous designers and artisans. Its missions are to pass on and preserve Taiwan's indigenous history and culture, develop indigenous traditional arts, promote indigenous art and cultural exchanges and encourage inter-disciplinary collaborations and alliances to increase economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for Taiwan's indigenous peoples.
It does this by visiting indigenous communities to understand traditional art forms and to record them in an effort to pass them on to future generations. This association does not only focus on the traditional, but seeks to add modern functions, encouraging indigenous artisans to develop products for contemporary people's lives that are infused with cultural meaning.
For example, through this association and on the Tribe-Asia Website it is possible to purchase a variety of handmade cloth cell phone bags, pencil cases, coin purses, name card holders, cosmetic bags and eating utensil holders. These feature a diversity of traditional and culturally inspired motifs from the indigenous Amis and Bunun tribes.
The traditional Amis society was matrilineal with the males responsible for the governance of the community and the females responsible for overseeing the home and traditional ceremonies. When a young woman of marrying age wanted to show her interest in a young man, she would request her mother to help her make a lover's bag to present to him during the annual Harvest Festival, one of the most important events of the year for Amis communities. If he accepted, this meant that a period of courtship could begin. Thus, the lover's bag is a symbol of mutual commitment. After marriage, the husband continued to wear this lover's bag to represent his everlasting love for his wife.
Today, couples do not have to wait for the annual Harvest Festival. They can express their affection for one another anytime through modern communication devices such as the cell phone. The lover's bag represents the matrilineal culture of the Amis and the courage of a young woman to express her love. This association has combined the traditional and the modern to create a modified lover's bag that serves as a unique and culturally meaningful cell phone bag.
Traditionally, Taiwan's indigenous languages did not have a written text and history had to be passed down orally. However, the Bunun tribe did develop icons to represent important events in the hunting and millet growing seasons. These were carved on a wooden plank which served as a type of crude calendar, marking when hunting of wild boar should and should not take place and when millet should be planted, weeded and harvested. It also marked the season for spinning and weaving of cloth. Important annual ceremonies and rites were also represented on this calendar, including the Ear Shooting Festival when the hunting skills of Bunun males were tested. These simple motifs describe the traditional Bunun lifestyle and the interdependent relationship of this tribe with Nature. These motifs are used in the design of cloth pencil cases, cell phone bags and name card holders.
Such products serve to call attention to the traditions of Taiwan's indigenous tribes, to emphasize the handmade nature of traditional arts and to incorporate indigenous culture into the lives of modern-day people all over the world.
Hualien Association of Indigenous Industries
116, Boai Street, Hualien City, Hualien County