A special exhibition focused on Taiwan’s Pingpu Aborigines (平埔族), also known as plains Aborigines, featuring rare cultural artifacts opened in Greater Tainan over the weekend and will run through Aug. 4.
More than 300 items are on display at the National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH), with 43 of them coming from Japan. Japanese scientists and ethnologists conducted extensive studies and field surveys on Taiwan’s Aboriginal groups during the colonial era.
The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the NMTH, Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology (NME) in Osaka and the Tenri University Sankokan Museum in Tenri, Nara Prefecture, Japan. It is the first time that the items from the latter have been loaned overseas.
Among the items on display are embroidered Pingpu garments, wood carvings and handicrafts, historic documents and black-and-white photographs dating back to the 19th century taken by anthropologists and Western explorers when they first came to Taiwan.
The exhibition also includes exquisite embroidered dresses, traditional costumes, ceremonial headwear and ornaments made by the Kahabu, Siraya and Ketagalan peoples.
“This exhibition puts a spotlight on the Pingpu. They are alive and with us here today. They are an important part of our history and they should be recognized as members of Taiwan’s multicultural ethnic makeup,” Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said at the opening of the exhibition on Friday.
NMTH director Lu Li-cheng (呂理政) said it took much effort and negotiation to bring together the items from the Japanese museums and collections at other overseas institutes.
“Through this exhibition we hope to let visitors see the diverse cultures of the Pingpu peoples ... It can enhance the relationship and understanding between the different ethnic groups of Taiwan,” Lu said.
NME representative Asakura Toshio said some of the items are back in Taiwan for the first time in more than 100 years, and he would be glad if his institute’s contribution to the exhibition can help to revitalize Pingpu culture and ethnic identity.
Besides the loans from other museums, the exhibition contains historic archives, land contract documents, Pingpu rights movement documentation and photographs, as well as other materials donated by Pingpu organizations.