Director Wei Te-sheng’s (魏德聖) movie Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, which tells the tale of the 1930 Wushe Incident, is proving very popular with the public, whether they be pan-blue, pan-green or swing voters.
If the media buzz surrounding the film helps people to learn more about the history of Taiwanese Aborigines and Taiwan in general, it can hardly be a bad thing.
The fear is that various interests will play on the theme for a while to get what they can out of it, and then they will throw it away and forgotten it.
Seediq Bale means “a true man” in the Sediq language. The movie tells the story of how Sediq chief Mona Rudao and other members of his tribe confronted the armed might of their foreign rulers.
Determined to preserve their own culture and dignity, they were willing to give up their lives rather than submit.
This spirit is similar to that of the many Taiwanese literary writers who have steadfastly resisted foreign colonialism by establishing a Taiwan-centric literary current.
As well as supporting the movie by buying tickets, we should also think about how to express this spirit in our educational and cultural establishments.
Let us take a recent major event on Taiwan’s literary scene as an example. Taiwanese author Chung Tie-min (鍾鐵民) passed away last month, and his funeral was held on Sep. 10.
His family and friends were there to bid him farewell, but President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) also sent representatives to deliver official eulogies in honor of Chung’s great achievements.
A lot of people in attendance had mixed feelings about this gesture, which was reminiscent of the fable of the weasel who, with ulterior motives, visited a mother hen to wish her a happy new year.
What kind of support did Ma and his government offer when Chung was preparing to set up a memorial hall in honor of his father, the writer Chung Li-ho (鍾理和)?
As everyone knows, after Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in Taiwan and the northern part if Vietnam on behalf of the Allied Forces in 1945, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which had come to Taiwan from overseas, tried to suppress Taiwanese languages, literature and culture.
Taking departments and institutes of Taiwanese literature as an example, it was not until 2000, 55 years after the KMT takeover, that the authorities approved the first master’s course in Taiwanese literature at a state-run university — National Cheng Kung University — followed by the establishment of an undergraduate department in 2002.
During the period when Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) was minister of education under the Democratic Progressive Party administration, he encouraged the internationalization of research on Taiwan at universities, and he actively promoted the teaching of native languages to elementary and high-school students.
However, following the KMT’s return to government in 2008, these policies have been scrapped bit by bit.
Now, the government offers encouragement and funding for Chinese academics, students and literary writers to come to Taiwan.
In May this year, the Council for Cultural Affairs sponsored a seminar on the theme of “ a century of novels.”
The list of invited participants was full of Chinese writers, while writers who use the medium of Taiwanese native languages were completely excluded, along with their works.