Tue, Feb 08, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Aborigines urge long-term view on training

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT Teachers and students of a handicrafts training program called for it to be extended, saying that short-term efforts do not work

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Aboriginal artisans called on the government to take a longer-term view and extend a training program intended to help indigenous peoples transform their art and culture into profitable businesses.

The program ended earlier this month.

"It takes years to become a master in any aboriginal handicraft art. Creating jobs for Aborigines or even the Aboriginal industry with a short-term program is a pipe dream," said Liman (施秀菊), speaking at an awards ceremony for students of the program at the end of last month.

Liman owns a glazed bead art studio in Pingtung County, and is also an instructor, teaching Aboriginal students handicraft skills.

Unemployment

In 2003, in a bid to reduce the jobless rate among Aborigines and improve the economies of Aboriginal communities, the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) established a "Public Service Employment Program Promoting the Aboriginal Cultural Industry."

The program, which focused on promoting Aboriginal handicrafts, employed artisans from various tribes to give training. Students in the program earned NT$800 per day during the training period.

According to statistics from the Ministry of the Interior for 2003, the program created 3927 jobs for Aborigines, mostly in local governments.

Participation

According to the CIP a total of 13 counties and cities participated in the program. Additionally, more than 1,000 Aboriginal students received training through 39 handicraft classrooms, spread among participating communities.

The students, most of them middle-aged women, learned handicraft skills such as knitting or pottery-making.

Peng Te-Chen (彭德成), director of the Department of Economics and Public Construction of the CIP, said that the development of the handicraft industry in countries like the US and Canada has been successful. The CIP hopes the program will give a fresh impetus to the Aboriginal handicraft industry.

Handicraft industry

"With skills acquired in the program, participants can open their own workshops or sell their artwork to others. Ultimately we plan to establish an Aboriginal handicraft industry and improve the economies of aboriginal communities," Peng said, speaking at an awards ceremony to honor excellence in student handicrafts at the end of last month.

The half-year program, which ended earlier this month, was too short, Liman said.

"We have to stop the classes as the program ends. Without further plans to continue the training, both instructors and students are left in the dark. All this effort will be wasted," she said.

Another program instructor, Yawai (林淑莉), owner of Raisinay knitwear workshop in Miaoli County, called on the government to continue the program.

"Teaching Aboriginal people handicraft skills and the rules of commerce is a long-term educational effort. If given more time and funds, I think we can help more Aboriginal students to develop better skills to support themselves," Yawai said, speaking at the awards ceremony.

Both Liman and Yawai own Aboriginal handicraft workshops which they have built into thriving businesses.

Through opening workshops in aboriginal communities and participating in the program, both hope to share their experience and success with fellow tribesmen.

Profitability

In addition to handicraft skills, they said a key element for becoming profitable is to expand a workshop to reach the level of mass-production capacity.

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