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The unique body ink heritage of Taiwan's indigenous Paiwan people will be showcased in a special exhibition co-organized by the National Taiwan Museum and the Laiyi Indigenous Museum from Oct. 6 through Dec. 6.
"Engraving Prestige - Hand Tattoo of Paiwan, Laiyi” will present images of hand tattoos, interview footage, and carved wood figures. The exhibition will allow audiences to engage with the culture of Paiwan.
Hand tattoo is a precious culture asset for the Paiwan tribe. Most Paiwan people who practice tattooing reside in the Laiyi Township of Pingtung County today. For them, receiving a tattoo is an honor as well as a symbol of identity.
Tattoos also represent one's social status and power, reflecting the system of hierarchy in Paiwan society. It is their custom to place tattoos on men's upper chest, back, and arms; whereas for women, tattoos are reserved for the back of their hands.
Female hand tattooing is an endangered Paiwan ritual, for the women who used to practice tattooing are now in their 80s. To prevent the tradition from disappearing, the Laiyi Indigenous Museum, Paiwan tribesmen, and scholars have done field studies and interviewed "vuvu,” or grandmother figures who serve as the elder tattoo artists in the tribe, to record the hand tattoo culture.
The stories of the tattooed elders in Laiyi will be unveiled through photos and video footage. The exhibition will also present how scholars strived to preserve such intangible cultural heritage, and introduce the culture context and ritual of Paiwan hand tattoos to the public.