Celebrating Diversity: Indigenous Students Stage Annual Cultural Exhibition - National Taiwan University of Science and Technology
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Celebrating Diversity: Indigenous Students Stage Annual Cultural Exhibition

 

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Pupuzu is Tsou language and means “fire ceremony”, an important part of Tsou culture. It also represents the energy and passion that Taiwan Tech’s students have put into the preparation of the annual Indigenous Students Cultural Exhibition at Taiwan Tech. 
The exhibition has been held for the fourth time, with this year’s week-long event showcasing the culture of the Tsou tribe. With around 6000 people, mostly living in the mountain areas of Chiayi and Nantou, the Tsou are one of the smaller tribes in Taiwan. 

“The Tsou are a secluded and quite mysterious tribe in Taiwan,” explains Yuan-Yi Pan, the administrative head of Taiwan Tech’s Indigenous Students Resource Centre (ISRC). “I am proud that we can introduce Tsou culture to the Taiwan Tech community this year. Compared with previous exhibitions, we have improved on many things, such as the exhibition design, the stage lighting, and our educational materials. So, this year was an even better experience”.

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With six months of intense preparations, the Taiwan Tech’s indigenous student club has indeed managed to put together an indeed impressive series of events. Apart from an exhibition on Tsou culture that introduced clothing, food and traditional architecture – with stunning models of Tsou housing – the program also offered a lecture on the origins of PuPuZu, a Tsou bagpipe workshop, and, as the culmination of the event, the PuPuZu Fire Tsou’s Music and Dance Performance on Friday evening, 12 September 2022.

What the audiences got to see, was actually the result of a long journey of cultural exploration. The concept which has been developed by the ISRC is compelling, as it allows indigenous students to re-encounter their culture. Last year, the students spent about a week in the Tfuya hamlet, a Tsou settlement in the Alishan mountain area, to get immersed in Tsou culture. After they came back to the campus, they started to develop ideas for the annual exhibition in a collaborative effort.

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The performance was coached by Ollai e yatauyungana, a native of Tfuya, who also works as a cultural tour guide. When asked about the biggest challenges, he said:“As the students come from different aboriginal communities all over Taiwan, they will bring their own cultural baggage with them. It needed a lot of training and practicing to let them grasp the spirit of Tsou culture. One major difference is, that our songs are quite slow. They are very much part of our daily life, singing is a tool of communication. Dancing plays a minor role in our community.”   
Taiwan Tech’s indigenous community is a diverse group, originating from different tribes and backgrounds. What links them together, is their common interest in aboriginal cultures, and the feeling that they belong to a minority in Taiwan. When asked about his experiences, mechanical engineering student takanaw vavuljenngan (凌睿瀚) said: “Tsou culture was entirely new to me, we had to learn about Tsou language, the music and the rituals. This felt like exploring a new country, but at the same time, there is a strong sense of belonging.” 

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With 124 students, the indigenous community is a relatively small group on Taiwan Tech campus, but as Vice President J.C. Liu pointed out in his speech at the inauguration of the exhibition:
 

“They might be small in numbers, but they add to the cultural diversity of our campus. We are immensely proud of them.”    

 

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