The top section of this hand carved wooden comb features a pair of birds that appear to be feeding. The triangular patterns on the birds and around the teeth of the comb are similar to those of the hundred pace pit viper. This snake (scientific name: Deinagkistrodon acutus) is considered the most toxic of the Asian pit vipers, and got its name from the claim that once bitten a victim will die before being able to walk 100 paces. To the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, this snake is highly revered, especially among the Paiwan, Rukai and Bunun tribes. Among the Paiwan, only the nobility were allowed to use this motif on their homes or clothing. On the back of the comb the artist has engraved his name in Chinese characters.
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.