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Words by Dr. Yung-chao Tung

Muakai wedding and beyond

On September 13-14, the National Museums of World Culture, Sweden, hosted the TAKING CARE Project Creative Study Lab on ‘Designing Sustainable Futures’.

Reconnecting with the Source: Marriage and beyond

"In response to increasing pressure from indigenous politicians in the early 2010s, several museums became active in promoting indigenous antiquities within the framework of Cultural Heritage Preservation Act. The Anthropology Museum at National Taiwan University (AMNTU hereafter), who recently transformed from a research branch of the Department of Anthropology to a more open civic educational institution, also joined the change. AMNTU chose Muakai, an ancestral post from Kaviyangan, a Paiwan village to apply for the highest status of National Treasure under Cultural Heritage Preservation Act. AMNTU brought the plan to Kaviyangan, who agreed to it and asked to participate in the review process from the beginning.

When the ancestral post of Muakai was successfully recognized as a National Treasure, the Kaviyangan people requested to have a Muakai wedding to properly situate the position of the indigenous ancestress-/ancestral post and the university/university museum/the neo-colonial collector. The wedding was held in September 12, 2015 and was a successful media event,that welcomed all parties, including the Ministry of Culture, NTU, AMNTU and the Kaviyangan. A Kaviyangan mobilized wedding, is a primary mechanism to express collective strength in honor of the daughter of the ruling lineage. The villagers spent a whole month to prepare various materials and forgotten practices, such as songs, in order to have an elaborate Paiwan wedding on the NTU campus.

The marriage did not start and end as only the wedding ceremony. Kaviyangan people have incorporated the NTU campus and the metropolis Taipei into their village life by requesting young men to pay tribute to the ancestress Muaka, as part of their initiation assignment. It’s very Paiwan thinking to see a marriage as a way to build alliance. At the same time, anthropology students became involved in the Kaviyangan initiation process and members of local youth group, serving the community especially during the harvest festival. We have become affines after the wedding, and both sides strive to live as one."

 Rewatch the entire Creative Study Lab session on the Reconnecting with the Source: Marriage and beyond with Dr. Yuan-chao Tung (Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, and Director of the Aboriginal Studies Centre, National Taiwan University) with contributions from Wei-chun, staff member of the Anthropology Museum, National Taiwan Museum

And watch the film about the Muakai wedding here.