Aboriginal groups from 12 countries shared their cultures with the public yesterday at an outdoor performing arts festival in Taipei.
Despite the hot weather, the Global Indigenous Peoples Performing Arts Festival attracted about 10,000 spectators from home and abroad in the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall plaza, said the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the event organizer.
The festival also marked the first time so many foreign Aborigines have danced together in Taiwan, Council Indigenous Peoples Minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) — whose Puyuma name is Paelabang Danapan — said in an opening speech.
“Dance constitutes a great part of Aboriginal culture everywhere around the world because it demonstrates how people communicate with nature,” he said.
The festival, which began on Wednesday last week in Hualien and ends on Wednesday in Pingtung, can be seen as a platform for exchanges between Aborigines of different countries, Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) said.
Interviewed by reporters, many of the foreign performers acknowledged that preserving Aboriginal culture was hard work and that festivals could help with cultural promotion.
Aloys Mashanya, leader of a dance troupe from Burundi, said few people in his country knew the traditional dances.
“The difficult part lies in the rhythm,” he said, referring to the resonance that comes from the drums, which can weigh as much as 40kg. “The dancers need to move and beat their drums at the same time, creating vibrant music.”
Wearing a sleeveless top made of plants, 18-year-old Dilkot Kay Williams from Palau said she was not even aware of her Aboriginal background until she was asked to perform in Taiwan.
“More people need to know about Aboriginal culture, myself included,” she said. “I agree that dance festivals are an easy way to attract attention and make our culture known.”
Among the many foreign spectators, an English teacher who has been in Taiwan for more than two years said that seeing Aboriginal performances live is better than reading about their history in books.
“The images stay with us longer because there is real interaction,” Quintin Dormehl said.
Coming from South Africa, a place also known for Aboriginal culture, he described the festival as an in-depth reference to Aboriginal culture.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” he said, adding that more such art performances should be supported.