Jiang Binglun, Ph.D. student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
The theme of “An Atayal Woman and Her Loom(also translated as ”A T'ai-ya Woman and Her Loom”)” is the loss of culture.
In her old age Yaki sits in a “demonstration area” in a national park, performing weaving techniques for visitors’ entertainment, a “living prop.” In the past, Atayal women took great pride in their ability to weave beautiful cloth. Today, however, Yaki no longer weaves as a way of life but to put on a performance, which she repeats day after day. Although this has the appearance of cultural transmission, in fact very few of the staff and visitors who come and go in the national park are able to understand Yaki from her own life perspective. That is why she talks to her loom incessantly, and even wishes to be buried with it when she dies, because she knows that with her passing the whole tribal culture and history could disappear, going together with her into the tomb.
The loom is an important part of Atayal culture, the tribespeople’s emotional bond, representing the memory of those who have gone before them. Yaki’s story points to the conflict between ethnicity and culture: Culture is a living thing, but when it is placed in an exhibition area it loses its vitality, and even though the weaving techniques are still practiced, they lose their spiritual connection and creative origins.
The author meticulously depicts Atayal tribal women’s experiences from a woman’s perspective. She portrays Xiulin Township in Hualian County as “a place of contradictions, famed for tourism and a source of child prostitutes,” a contrast intended to draw reader’s attention to Yaki’s “death” metaphor. In the past, politicians and businesspeople encroached on Atayal communities and many Atayal women were sold into prostitution, losing their freedom. In addition, everything Yaki remembers of her life – from childhood to marriage – makes sense only within tribal context. When the other tribespeople have all gone, the beautiful cloth she spins no longer serves a purpose.
Now that the tribe is a but shadow of its former self and Yaki is alone in the national park, what remains for her in her old age except boredom and loneliness? Drawing on her own experience, Liglav A-wu reflects deeply on the lives of Atayal women from a woman’s perspective.
Cheng Tzuyao, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Liglav A-wu (b. 1969), a member of the Paiwan ethnic group, was born in Pucunug Village, Laiyi Township, Pingdong County, daughter of a Paiwan mother and a Chinese father from Anhui province. Liglav A-wu is her tribal name; her Chinese name is Gao Zhenhui. She holds and Master’s degree in creative writing from National Dong Hwa University’s Department of Sinophone Literature.
A-wu grew up in a military dependents’ village. Owing to her father’s status as a veteran soldier, she identified herself as a “second-generation Mainlander,” bearing a Chinese name, speaking Mandarin and seeing herself as Han. Her mother taught her that this was a way to protect herself. It was only after her father had passed away and her mother took her back to her Paiwan tribe, that A-wu really faced up to her aboriginal heritage and started trying to trace the history of the Paiwan tribe’s matrilineal society. But she discovered that these tribal values are being eroded under the influence of Taiwan’s education system and patriarchal society. Thus, she began to record all the stories she knew about aboriginal women; these stories were collected in Who Will Wear These Beautiful Clothes I’ve Woven? (1996).
A-wu has said that there are two important periods in her life which form the background to her writing: the first was when, under her father’s direction, she began to keep a journal, and the second was coming into contact with contemporary literature, under the influence of her ex-husband, Walis Norgan. In 1986 A-wu met Walis Norgan of the Atayal tribe while working as a substitute teacher. The two had grown up outside aboriginal communities, but after becoming involved in the indigenous movement they moved to an aboriginal village to reacquaint themselves with tribal culture and to help with community development. In 1989 they started Hunter Culture magazine, the one of the first literary publications founded by Taiwanese aborigines, featuring in-depth social sciences research into various tribes. After the magazine folded in 1998, the two set up the Research Center for Taiwanese Aboriginal Culture, an experience that would later provide inspiration for her writing.
A-wu’s work consists mostly of prose collections. Because of the complexities of her background – identifying herself as a Han in her early years and as an aborigine later on – A-wu has devoted herself to the promotion of aboriginal culture. In the process, she has become aware of gender differences, which has led to her long-standing involvement in issues concerning aboriginal women, writing the life stories of aboriginal women, and describing in simple terms the present situation and difficulties faced by aboriginal people. In 2005 she won the Lai He Prize. At the end of 2007 she began hosting Tribe on Tribe, a television program on Taiwan Indigenous TV, also taking a teaching position in Providence University’s Department of Taiwanese Literature and becoming a radio host. Of her multifaceted identity, A-wu says, “Basically, people can change. I want to change and keep getting better and better.”
|Work(English)：||A T'ai-ya Woman and Her Loom|
|Anthology：||Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series（《台灣文學英譯叢刊 》）|
|Publisher：||Forum for the Study of World Literatures in Chinese, University of California, Santa Barbara|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||Inc.http://star.morningstar.com.tw|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Morning Star Publishing|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://paper-republic.org/publishers/taiwan-literature-english-translation-series/|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：|