Thu, Nov 08, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Indigenous art ‘festival within a festival’

Pulima Art Festival’s collaboration with Australia’s Yirramboi First Nations Art Festival kicks off today, featuring a number of workshops, concerts, exhibitions and performances — including an indigenous drag queen contest

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Pulima Art Festival curator Nakaw Putun, left, and Yirramboi First Nations Art Festival curator Caroline Martin pose for a photo after exchanging traditional crafts as gifts.

Photo courtesy of Pulima Art Festival

Eucalyptus leaves burned in front of Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art yesterday afternoon as attendees took turns using their hands to draw the smoke onto their face and bodies.

This traditional Australian blessing ceremony, carried out by Aboriginal elder and storyteller Uncle Larry Walsh, kicked off the festivities for the weeklong collaboration between Taiwan’s Aboriginal Pulima Art Festival and the Yirramboi First Nations Art Festival, which includes a number of contemporary art exhibitions in the museum as well as a series of activities and performances, including a “Miss First Nations Taiwan” drag queen workshop and contest on Saturday.

Later during the opening ceremony, Pulima curator Nakaw Putun presented her Yirramboi counterpart Caroline Martin with a Paiwan nose flute, while Martin returned the favor with an ornate wooden bowl. Martin and the four visiting Australian artists are the guests this year, and Martin promised to reciprocate the hospitality during her festival next May.

“It’s really about the sharing of history and commonalities … Having those conversations are incredibly humbling for us. It enables us to know that we’re not alone in the world of colonization. Obviously we know that, but similarities between Taiwan and Australia are something we look forward to exploring more in our dialogues,” Martin says.

This “festival within a festival” is the first transnational exchange for the Pulima Art Festival, which is now in its fourth year and runs through Jan. 13. Nakaw Putun says that the Indigenous People’s Cultural Foundation, which sponsors the festival, has been increasingly active in promoting international exchanges. Not only does Aboriginal contemporary art contain universal elements such as weaving and maritime culture, but “it has matured to the point where the artists can start conversing with the world,” she says.

Performance Notes

Performance notes

WHAT: Pulima Art Festival x Yirramboi First Nations Art Festival

WHEN: Collaboration through Sunday, exhibition through Jan. 13

WHERE: Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, 39, Changan W Rd, Taipei City (台北市長安西路39號), Drag Queen contest at Red House, 10, Chengdu Rd, Taipei City (台北市成都路10號)

On the Net:

This year’s theme for the festival is micawor, which means “turning over” in the Amis language. It can refer to turning over the fertile soil of indigenous culture, but also to the forces that are overturning the status of Aborigines in Taiwan, such as the protests over land rights and other pertinent issues such as environmental destruction and cultural revitalization.

“This process of social change also involves performing and visual artists who actively participate in these developments,” Nakaw Putun says. “Art can open up completely new ways of thinking, observing and taking action regarding social issues.”

Martin says that artists have a freedom of creation that most people lack. “They’re able to express [their ideas] in a way that other people can engage in. An intangible frustration is converted into an amazing tangible experience that allows anyone to engage it in any way they want to.”

Nakaw Putun emphasizes the diversity in age, medium and background of the featured artists for the main event, which is also reflected in the four Australian visiting artists: Alice Skye is a young singer-songwriter; Ben Graetz is a performing artist and drag queen under the moniker “Miss Ellaneous”; Peter Waples-Crowe is a visual artist presenting collage paintings using early European images of Aborigines as savages; and Glenda Nicholls makes use of natural, degradable fibers and traditional weaving techniques.

These artists will work closely with their Taiwanese counterparts. For example, Graetz will share his drag expertise with interested Taiwanese Aboriginal artists on Saturday while Skye will be harmonizing with award-winning Amis singer Ilid Kaolo on Sunday.

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