Erenlai - Madeleine King
Madeleine King

Madeleine King

My name is Madeleine King, I am 21 and an undergraduate student studying at ANU in Canberra, Australia. I will soon be commencing my final year of my Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies degree, with Chinese language and Pacific Studies being my majors. Currently I am undertaking a 3 month scholarship in Taipei, studying Chinese at NCCU. It was since arriving in Taipei that I became involved with Erenlai. My key academic interests are of the Pacific region, the growing Chinese influence in the Pacific, as well as environmental and social issues in general. More generally, I like travelling, learning and experiencing new things. Being involved with Erenlai has allowed me to pursue both my academic and general interests, which is great!

我的名字是Madeleine King, 我的中文名字是麥荻。我是二十一歲。我,在堪培拉,在澳洲國立大學學習。我是一個本科生。明年是我最後的年關於我的學位。我的專業是中文和太平洋研究。現在在台北我做了一個獎學金了。我在政大學習。來台北得時候,我成為殘餘跟eRenlai. 我的學術興趣是太平洋研究,中國跟太平洋關係跟中國的越來越多影响,再說环境和社会的問題也有興趣。我本人,喜歡旅行,學習和新的經驗。因此,成為殘餘跟eRenlai是非常好因為我不但追求我學者的興趣而且我一般的興趣!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:45

Summary of Session III: Images as Waves- Watching, Thinking and Acting

Summary of Session III: Images as Waves- Watching, Thinking and Acting

Session III: Images as Waves - Watching, Thinking and Acting, provided a visual aspect to the conference by focusing on the works of three local documentary filmmakers and their use of visual media to explore various indigenous issues. The three documentary makers provided an introduction to their work as well as showing small excerpts from their documentaries.

The first documentary maker was Lungnan Isak Fangas, an experienced documentary director from the Amis tribe. His documentaries focus on his interest in indigenous identity and belonging. He introduced three of his documentaries; the first of these was filmed in 1999, and is footage of an indigenous speaking competition at his university. It documented enthusiastic young students with either indigenous roots or just with an interest in learning the traditional tongues of Taiwan. Although the film is not very polished, it makes for a good and engaging introduction to the subject. Fangas' second documentary saw him following the journey of an indigenous Taiwanese band called 'Totem' performing in a bar in a city. The footage shows the band arriving in the city by night, then performing in a crowded room to a receptive crowd. Fangas reflects that the song being sung is called 'I was singing over there', and due to its meaning concerning coming home, every human being, indigenous or not, can relate to this feeling. The footage again is simply edited but this works well with the topic, the grassroots journey of the band. Lastly, Fangas ends with footage from his most recent exploration of indigeneity which sees the camera turn on himself and his own journey of identity. The content of this footage, along with that from the previous two documentaries, was simple and easy to follow. It light-heartedly documented his pursuit to become a member of the Amis tribe, showing his amateur attempts to learn the specific cultural practices and dances of the tribe. His desire to connect with the Amis culture despite having apparent but untraceable indigenous Taiwanese roots, stems from what he calls "feeling like a tourist, in terms of identity". Overall, Fangas' documentaries, despite doing nothing more than casually observing an event each time, sensitively present his desire to explore notions of indigenous identity in an easy to understand manner.

The second documentary maker introduced was Si Yabosokanen. She comes from Orchid Island, a small island off the East coast of Taiwan that's traditional culture and way of life has been better preserved than in other areas due to its isolation, yet still strongly and uniquely affected by an influx of contemporary society and culture nonetheless. It is this combination of traditional methods and more contemporary methods that has inspired the focus and issues that Yabosokanen aims to introduce and help tackle through her documentaries. Yabosokanen adds her skills as a nurse to her filmmaking ability in order to address the serious lack of care of elderly people on Orchid Island. Yabosokanen explained in detail the cultural factors for the origin of this problem, including a cultural stigma of sickness, younger generations' having to leave the island to find work and thus being less able to care for their elders, and traditional housing being replaced by a more modern style which affects the place for the elderly within their physical home structure. Her documentary showed nurses addressing the dire needs of some elderly residents who are extremely emaciated and unclean. Seeing these images is striking as it is hard to imagine how these elderly people could be left to survive in this state. Yabosokanen's topic is shocking as much as it is very interesting, as cultural and social undercurrents are at play, affecting the general wellbeing of people. It is no wonder that, when shown in Taipei, her documentary created an emotive response, with members of the public giving donations of money and their time to help her cause. Overall Yabosokanen's documentary endeavors and her story are inspiring, and truly embody the power of the documentary to introduce and help address complex issues such as this on Orchard Island.

The last documentary maker introduced was Cerise Phiv, the managing editor of eRenlai. Ending with her documentary was fitting since her focus was broader and more encompassing, concerning the place of indigenous Taiwanese within the Pacific region. Phiv explained the causes and events for her arrival at this topic of exploration, then provided footage from her documentary: Writings that Weave Waves, which was shown in full later in the conference.
Firstly, through her time at the Ricci institute, with which eRenlai is associated, and by participating in one of their documentaries following a young Amis woman, Phiv was introduced to issues of indigenous Taiwanese culture and the craft of documentary making. Secondly, also through the Ricci institute, Phiv attended a trip to Canada with fourteen young indigenous Taiwanese, filming their trip and interactions with indigenous Canadian culture. Thus,
Writings that Weave Waves, was a culmination of the notion of indigenous identity in its own cultural context, and also within a regional Pacific context. These two contexts considered together are interesting, as they are concerned with the scope of perspective and belonging. Phiv explained that despite being Taiwanese and therefore living on an island surrounded by ocean, certain tribes do not associate themselves with it. Therefore, although in a broad sense, there is the perspective that Taiwan is part of the Pacific, from a more refined perspective, an affinity to ones local tribal environment becomes evident. Alongside this thought, the footage from the documentary itself left the viewer with a desire to see more, as the editing and the ambition to attempt to place Taiwan within the greater Pacific diaspora were both well presented and clearly evident. To conclude her presentation, Phiv herself aptly stated that the images should be best left to talk for themselves.

This section of the conference affirmed the idea that images truly have a unique ability to convey messages and explore complex issues. These three documentary makers have all taken different approaches and styles to their documentary making, yet all achieve their overall goal: to explore issues and enlighten viewers. Without this section, the conference would have lacked a greater sense of perspective of the issue. Furthermore, seeing footage from the documentaries prevented conceptual ideas and notions from stealing away the conference's purpose, as seeing real people, places and issues at hand helped keep the conference grounded and down to earth.

 

Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:14

The 2012 4th Life Sustainability Awards Ceremony and Awardees

This year saw the 4th Life Sustainability Awards ceremony take place at the 2012 International Austronesian Conference in Taipei. The awards celebrate individuals' actions and passions for nurturing and protecting cultural, spiritual and environmental sustainability. This years setting award setting was particularly fitting, as it was the first occasion that a non-Taiwanese has received the award. Papa Mape, a Tahitian and Lifok 'Oteng, an indigenous Taiwanese, both were present at the conference to receive their awards. Their presence together on stage further emphasised and reflected conference's key theme, of strengthening ties and realising connections between Taiwanese and Pacific culture.

The first awardee, and the first non-Taiwanese to receive this award, was Papa Mape, an 85 year old fisherman and village elder of Mo'orea, Tahiti, who through sharing his traditional knowledge of the ocean has opened up doors for scientists as well as his whole community. Traditional knowledge is sacred in Tahiti, only passed down to family members and done so orally. Yet with the future of the environment unknown and thus a growing need to better understand it, Mape appreciates the value of sharing his traditional knowledge with Western scientific knowledge of environmental resource management. As a key example of tradition working with science, in 2011 the National Geographic Magazine featured his inspiring story. What drives Papa Mape to share his knowledge with scientists however, is for the young and future generations of Tahitians, as in doing so cultural and environmental sustainability alike are greater maintained.

Lifok 'Oteng, is an 80 year old Amis diarist, historian and musician from the Yiwan tribe near Taidong. Suffering paralysis when he was 14, he spent many proceeding years bed-ridden, using his time to self-study as well as learn musical instruments and languages. With greater mobility from age 27, 'Oteng began putting his great ability with language and communication to use, through visiting village elders from tribes and compiling their culture and histories. His diary, which he has consistently maintained for 60 years is furthermore a documentation of his interactions with cultures and histories. 'Oteng's drive and interest in culture has also seen him working as a Japanese translator, research assistant and field researcher. He is a pioneer and leading figure in his own Amis tribes' cultural history, and through his efforts of sustaining culture through documentation, now he himself is an important part of own culture's history.

Officially recognising this year's awardees and previous recipients is but a small token of appreciation in the name of sustaining culture, spirituality and the environment. The awardees tireless work and drive throughout their lives to do so, is a reminder and reflection of the importance and value of maintaining these forms of sustainability, for their communities and all of us alike.

Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:01

Review: Writings that Weave Waves

Living in today's ever-changing globalised world is threatening traditional cultural practices and identity. The history of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples is evidence of this with the island's history marked by previous Chinese and Japanese rule and today, more generally, the rule of modernity. Thus, for the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, although they primarily live in smaller, rural areas, maintaining a strong sense of cultural belonging, identity is a challenge. Cerise Phiv's documentary Writings that Weave Waves: East Formosans and the Pacific World explores this challenge, glimpsing into the lives and perspectives of several indigenous Taiwanese individuals living in a changing world and their relationship with the indigenous way of life of their ancestors.

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