This hand carved wooden hairpin features a human figure facing forward with the head turned to an impossible angle. The Paiwan traditionally maintained a strict hierarchical society of chieftain, nobility and commoners. Carvings that represented human figures were usually reserved for decorating the homes of the upper classes, such as the lintel over the doorway.
Kamuli Pelen is a member of the Paiwan tribe from Pingtung County in southern Taiwan. For the past 11 years, he has carved art from driftwood and riverbed stones, mostly based on traditional themes. But, while his source of inspiration is his tribe’s traditions, he prefers to produce works that people can use or appreciate in their daily lives, such as bowls, decorative masks and hair pins. He began his art career as a chef creating fruit carvings, and confesses to having had a hard but colorful life, with his experiences being revealed in the richness of his works.