Deputy Culture Minister Hsiao Tsung-huang (蕭宗煌) awarded late Kavalan banana fiber weaver Pan Wuji (潘烏吉) a posthumous presidential citation on behalf of President Tsai Ing-wen for her brilliant cultural contributions while paying official condolences to the late artisan-shaman together with senior officials from the Ministry of Culture at a memorial ceremony held on Feb. 11.
The citation was received by Pan's oldest son, Chen Tsun-tsai (陳春財).
Pan, whose indigenous name was Ipay, passed away at the age of 92 during her sleep in the early morning of Jan. 24. Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun, while expressing her sorrow at the artisan's death, praised Pan for her lifelong dedication to preserving the craft of banana fiber weaving and revitalizing the indigenous Kavalan culture. The Bureau of Cultural Heritage was tasked with applying for a presidential citation and consolation package for Pan's family shortly after the Minister learned about the sad news.
Following her aunt's lead, Pan became a makawasay (the term for an Amis shaman) for the Amis tribe at the age of 13, performing rituals to console spirits that the tribe believed to cause illness or trouble. At 30, Pan began to learn another set of rituals with the Kavalan shaman Ququs and later became a metiu (a Kavalan shaman).
Indigenous shamans and their rituals began to lose importance in the 1950s, when Taiwanese aboriginal groups began converting to Catholicism upon the introduction of western religions to Taiwan. Pan thus became the most important heir of traditional Kavalan religious rituals.
Not only had Pan been pushing forward the work of revitalizing Kavalan culture, she had been also striving hard to help many other tribes, including the Ketagalan and the Sakizaya, rebuild their fading ritual cultures. For instance, she was invited to perform rituals at the renaming ceremony of Chieh-Shou Road to Ketagalan Boulevard in 1994, and chanted a Kavalan dancing ritual called kisaiz in front of the Presidential Office.
Beginning in 2010, Pan also helped the Sakizaya people learn how to worship their ancestors again through the fire god, or palamal, ritual and cultivate new shamans for their tribe. Her selfless spirit and lifelong fight for the preservation of all indigenous cultures have kept Taiwan's endangered tribal customs from vanishing forever.