The spirit of Tminun — meaning “to weave” in the Atayal language — was evoked at the Aboriginal Literary Awards yesterday, as organizers expressed their desire to “weave together” members of the diverse Aboriginal literary community.
Accompanied by live music performed by an Aboriginal choir, the event saw 17 awards given out for Aboriginal literature in four categories: short stories, literary essays, poetry and reporting.
Literary works on a diverse array of topics related to Aboriginal culture and identity were involved, including traditional topics such as Aboriginal mythology or depictions of nature, as well as works tackling Aboriginal experiences in the urban job market.
The biggest winner of the awards was Meng Nen, an up-and-coming Paiwan writer who won first place in the literary essay category and third place in the short stories category.
Meng Nen’s literary essay piece described feelings of longing for her grandmother triggered by the unexpected medium of coffee, which has become an increasingly popular cash crop among Aboriginal villages.
The short story juxtaposed Paiwan mythology with a science fiction backdrop set in the year 2585.
The winner of this year’s poetry award was Pisuy Bawnay, an Atayal Aborigine, who addressed identity issues for children born from mixed Han Chinese and Aboriginal marriages through a poem called Half of the Lunar New Year.
Heavyweight novelist Dancing Crane (舞鶴), who served on the judges’ panel for the short stories award, encouraged contestants to learn Aboriginal languages.
“Even for literary works written in Chinese, knowledge of an Aboriginal language can bring a unique flavor to the prose,” Dancing Crane said.
Control Yuan Deputy President Paelabang Danapan — a Puyuma Aborigine who is also known by his Chinese name, Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川), lauded the event for passing on the legacy of Aboriginal literature.
Paelabang, who once served as the head of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, said the council is currently working with publishers from New Zealand to translate works of Aboriginal literature into English.
An English compilation of selected works of Aboriginal literature is scheduled to be released at the Taipei International Book Fair in February, Paelabang added.
“Aboriginal literature should forge connections with the international community, especially with South Pacific nations, as we are part of the same cultural family,” Paelabang said.