"I am Atayal,” a special exhibition detailing the process and outcome of an effort to teach Taiwan's indigenous Atayal culture through the use of creative arts, will be held at the National Taiwan Museum from July 7 through Aug. 31.
In 2012, students of Atayal heritage from the Nan'ao Elementary School in northeastern Taiwan joined an empowerment project led by American scholar-and-photographer duo, Christine Yeh and Mikael Owunna, who arrived in Taiwan on Fulbright scholarships.
Noting that art is uniquely suited for expressing emotions, stories, and identity, Yeh and Owunna incorporated Atayal culture, myths, and symbols with the school curriculum to help students learn more about their cultural roots and to foster pride in their heritage.
Through clay art, drawing boards, role play, and face paint, students became acquainted with Atayal knowledge such as the importance of the color red, which represents warrior-like passion and courage, as well as the rhombic pattern, which stands for the eyes of tribal ancestors.
The students were also given disposable cameras to capture moments from their everyday lives, and decorated their self-portraits with Atayal motifs and newly-learned indigenous phrases. The photos are available on Mowunna's Flickr stream here.
The 10-month teaching project was carried out from August 2012 to June 2013 in Yilan County, and the children's artworks will be on display at the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei until Aug. 31. The exhibition will then be shifted to the Nan'ao Atayl Cultural Museum in September.