This necklace has a 27-inch chain (as each necklace is handmade allow for some variation in chain size) and looks very similar to the long bead necklaces traditionally worn by Rukai women during ceremonies and on special occasions. The necklace includes patterned and solid-colored beads, as well as larger and smaller beads. The Rukai tribe had a strict social hierarchy with certain patterned beads reserved exclusively for the chieftain and nobility. Such beads were considered the most valuable and beautiful. Thus, these beads played an important role in society, expressing one’s social position and identity.
Photo courtesy of Henry Westheim Photography/Asia Photo Connection.
Alelean Marulagai is from the Rukai tribe, born in Wutai Township of Pingtung County. Marulagai is a master craftsperson having gained recognition among the people of her tribe and of other tribes as one of the few remaining traditional headdress makers. Traditionally, Rukai hunters proudly displayed their achievements. Wild boar tusks and jaw bones, deer antlers, eagle claws and other animal parts adorned headdresses and even the exterior and interior of homes. Now, that the hunting culture is rapidly disappearing and to complement the concepts of and trends in environmental conservation, the Wild Man Working House, which is made up of Marulagai and Han Chinese designer Daphne Lo, is creating imitation tusks, teeth and antlers. These are used in conjunction with traditional style Rukai beads to produce contemporary jewelry designs and accessories that are infused with the beauty of Rukai culture.