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The 2023 Taiwan Tech Indigenous Students Cultural Exhibition, held from 11 to 15 September on Taiwan Tech campus, is one of the cultural highlights of Taiwan Tech’s vibrant campus life. The annual week-long event aims to showcase the diversity and richness of indigenous cultures in Taiwan.
This year’s event, titled “Ledra”, meaning “light” in Rukai language, was dedicated to the culture of the Rukai tribe, a community of around 13,500 people that originally settled in Taitung and Pingdong counties in Southern Taiwan. As Cegaw Ladomalralrath who studies Mechanical Engineering explain: "We chose "Ledra" as the theme because we wanted to bring light back from the Rukai tribe, as as inspiration for the entire community and school."
With around 100 students, the Taiwan Tech indigenous community is a relatively small group, originating from different tribes and backgrounds. What links them together, is their common interest in aboriginal cultures which they wish to preserve.The week-long series of events showcases the achievements of the Taiwan Tech’s indigenous student club. Organized by Taiwan Tech's indigenous student club, the event distinguished itself from typical tourist-oriented shows by offering a profound learning experience. Only two of the students belong to the Rukai culture (Beinan settlement), and all of them have grown up p in one of Taiwan’s cities, with not much exposure to aboriginal culture. What the audiences got to see, was the result of a six months of cultural exploration which allows indigenous students to re-encounter aboriginal cultures. Over the last year, the students spent about a week in the Taromak, a Rukai tribe settlement in the Taitung county, to get immersed into Rukai society and its culture.
Coached by tribe elders and experienced Rukai culture instructors, students received in-depth insights that they transformed into their own creations after their arrival to the campus. “The Rukai tribes have a rich tradition of legends and love stories, that inspired the students in their design of the exhibition and their performance,” explains Yuan-Yi Pan (潘沅宜), the administrative head of Taiwan Tech’s Indigenous Students Resource Centre (ISRC).
Upon returning to campus, they transformed their newfound insights into creative expressions. The series of events included an exhibition on Rukai customs and material culture, a workshop on crocheting millet-shaped souvenirs as a homage to the Rukai's traditional crop, and culminated in a Music and Dance Performance on Friday evening. It was most impressive how students had mastered the traditional dances and the song texts in the Rukai language, which were displayed alongside Chinese subtitles for the audience's understanding.
As Ms Pan commented: “It is great to see that the performance has attracted such as big audience, we even had to turn people away. We wished we had a bigger venue with a proper stage. But we are proud that we can now offer better resources, such as state-of-the art lighting design and exhibition equipment. Most important, we managed to invite two professionals, Fan Yi, an actor and dramaturg, who guided guide students to stage the performance, and curator Yukan Yulaw who coached the exhibition design. "
The event had been inaugurated by Vice President J.C. Liu who praised the activity: “Our indigenous students might be small in numbers, but they add to the cultural diversity of our campus. We are immensely proud of them.”
During the performance, the lyrics were displayed Rukai language with Chinese subtitles so that the audience could follow the story-line.
A Tiyuma (Swing), decorated with lilies. Swinging is a traditional Rukai ritual held at weddings or during the Harvest Festival. The lily is an important symbol in Rukai communities, representing is virtue and purity.