This hand carved wooden hair pin features a ceramic vessel, one of the treasures of the Paiwan tribe. According to legend, the ancestors of this tribe were born from a large ceramic vessel, and ornate vessels such as the one depicted here were so prized that they could only be used by the chieftain. This vessel also features two hundred-pace pit vipers (scientific name: Deinagkistrodon acutus), considered the most toxic of the Asian pit vipers. This snake 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, the hundred-pace pit viper is highly revered, especially among the Paiwan, Rukai and Bunun tribes. Among the Paiwan, which traditionally maintained a strict hierarchical society, only the nobility were allowed to wear clothing with the hundred-pace pit viper motif.
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.