This wooden bowl is able to stand upright due to the support of two opposing hundred pace pit vipers. 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 to decorate their homes or clothing. Inside the bowl is a small section of the hundred-pace pit viper motif. The bottom of the bowl is signed “By the artist Pelen” with “Pelen” transliterated into Chinese characters. Keeping with the traditional indigenous spirit of harmony with nature, Kamuli Pelen uses only local wood for his carvings, mostly driftwood he finds along the coast or felled trees or waste lumber from building construction sites.
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.