The National Taitung Living Art Center held a series of workshops on the exchange of indigenous cultures between Taiwan and Switzerland from Aug. 19 through 23.
The event was a collaborative project by Swiss publisher Baobab Books, the Taitung Living Art Center and Lichiu Village in Taitung County. They invited artists who can tell and preserve stories in books by sketching, painting or mosaic crafting.
Led by Sonja Matheson, the CEO of Baobab Books, they discussed how to brainstorm ideas for a book and then draft the content and illustrations. The objective was to create an opportunity to introduce the culture of indigenous tribes in Taitung through publications by the participating artists.
The Swiss publishing company was established to promote teenager and children’s literature. Its name comes from the baobab tree, or African monkey bread tree, which is native to Africa. The African people enjoy telling and listening to stories under baobab trees. This is also how their culture is passed down from generation to generation. The publisher thus used this imagery to represent its spirit.
For the Paiwan tribe, the pavilion-like taqetaqe is similar to the baobab tree. Paiwan families often take a rest in a taqetaqe, which is usually built on an old tree. It is also the space for the elderly to interact with each other and tell stories. A taqetaqe is like a tribal school because stories from all generations are being told there.
Seeing the charm of Taiwan’s diverse indigenous cultures, Baobab Books became interested in publishing one or two books created by local artists through discussions and interviews.
The Swiss publisher decided to publish a children’s book after CEO Matheson visited indigenous communities in Taitung last February. By creating a physical book, the company aims to promote respect for indigenous cultures to the public.
“CEO Matheson believes that good things take time to brew and she wants to further foster identity of indigenous cultures and indigenous cultural values. We may now have highly developed civilizations; however, some issues remain threatening or even damaging to other civilizations. We should re-examine and learn about the aboriginal people’s ways of getting along with nature and their ideas of sustainability,” said Lee Chi-chung, acting director of the Taitung Living Art Center.