The National Museum of Prehistory will highlight issues around historical and transitional justice for Taiwan’s indigenous peoples through “The Solace of Music: Shared Memories of Contemporary Indigenous Songs.” Running from Feb. 9 through to March 8, this exhibition invites the public to revisit the nation’s history through audio recollections.
Contemporary indigenous songs are a source of shared memory and comfort across ethnic lines. In fact, many intimately familiar songs came from indigenous artists. “Taiwan is Great (臺灣好)” was adapted into a patriotic Mandarin-language song from Amis and Puyuma music, and “I na aw: The Maiden of Malan (馬蘭姑娘)” enjoyed success when sung by both Amis singer Lu Jingzi (盧靜子) and Han Chinese singer Meidai (美黛).
This special exhibition addresses a range of issues pertaining to historical justice for indigenous peoples, including exhibiting the songs and will of Uyongu Yata'uyungana (高一生), Tsou artist and victim of the martial-law era; tunes of the indigenous laborers who migrated en masse from their home villages to work in the forests and cities between the 1950s and 1980s; and songs by Ara Kimbo (胡德夫), a Puyuma-Paiwan musician who wrote his own ballads as well as adapted western music.
Of special note are songs by Ara Kimbo after he joined the indigenous rights movement of the 1980s. After the Haishan Coal Mine disaster, the then 32-year-old's works began asking questions like “Why can I not find a way to stay in my home town?” and paying tribute to the Amis people who gave their lives in the depths of dark mines – such was the price of Taiwan’s electricity.
The exhibition features nearly 200 pieces of music on vinyl, cassette, and CD. Among these are some 80 vinyl records, including vintage copies dating back to the Japanese occupation and the post-WW2 period. Some 50 songs will also be played in many different versions to demonstrate how indigenous music was adapted by contemporary music makers.
The featured vinyl records came from the collections of Eric Scheihagen, co-curator of the exhibition, and Hsu Teng-fang (徐登芳), fellow record collector. Displayed alongside are precious images and videos, including the anti-communist propaganda short “Taiwan is Great” from the declassified files of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo, and historical information and documentaries about the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement.
By examining issues around historical and transitional justice for the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, the National Museum of Prehistory hopes to give the public a chance to experience and empathize with that history and the associated trials, tribulations, and historical pains.
Through such shared memories and the common humanity that comes through music, the museum hopes to break the divide between “self” and “other,” to create a sense of care and concern through the evocative nature of music, and give people a chance to get involved on the basis of historical understanding.
‘The Solace of Music’