A rare glimpse of the unique lifestyles and value systems of Taiwan's indigenous peoples will be offered by "Indigenous Weaving,” a special exhibition running at the International Museum of Art & Science in Texas from May 19 through Oct. 2.
Weaving is a distinct craft perfected by the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, who moved to the island thousands of years before it came under Qing dynasty rule. Each tribe developed unique survival and life skills through their interaction with the natural environment and with each other.
In their self-reliant cultures, these aborigines utilized horizontal back-strap looms to process ramie fibers into cloth. Following trade and contact with Han immigrants and other colonial powers, cotton, fur, and manmade fabrics gradually replaced cloth made with ramie fibers. Further influences from the Han culture led to the disappearance of traditional "square-cut” outfits in favor of Han-style clothes.
Traditional indigenous patterns and weaving styles are now endangered skills. Pattern design alone requires precise calculations to ensure that different colored threads are inserted at the right position with the correct width. One miscalculation is likely to distort the entire weave, so only a few tribal elders still produce woven products.
Young weavers in Taiwan are now trained in the time-honored methods in an attempt to preserve tribal culture and the values embodied in such craftsmanship.
The exhibition is made possible by the National Museum of History in Taipei, which loaned 40 indigenous artifacts from its collection. The relics represent weaving from Taiwanese indigenous tribes such as Atayal, Truku, Amis, Puyuma, Paiwan, Rukai, and Tau (Tao).
An Exhibition of Native Objects from the National Museum of History