Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Linguists’ records returned to Siraya

By Huang Wen-yu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Siraya Aborigines watch a recording of Siraya rituals made in the 1930s by Japanese linguist Erin Asai in Toushe Village in Tainan.

Photo: Huang Wen-yu, Taipei Times

Recordings of Siraya rituals and language made in the 1930s by Japanese linguist Erin Asai in Tainan’s Toushe Village (頭社) were on Wednesday returned to the community by the National Museum of Taiwan History.

Asai was commissioned by the Governor’s Office during the Japanese colonial period to research the customs and languages of Aborigines.

He made two recordings in Toushe Village: a silent, black-and-white film showing a night sacrifice for ancestral spirits, and an audio recording of a Siraya song, the museum said.

In 1995, the recordings were published by Japanese anthropologist Kasahara Masaharu in a collection entitled Images of Taiwanese Aborigines.

The museum said it had obtained the recordings from a Japanese academic institution as part of a program to repatriate historical visual and audio material to Aboriginal communities.

Returning the recordings aims to help preserve the nation’s cultural heritage and aid research in tracking linguistic and cultural changes, it said.

After watching the 11-minute night sacrifice footage at a public screening by the museum, Mao Jen-mei (毛仁美), a Siraya, said she recognized the woman overseeing the ritual as her grandmother, whose name was Mao Lai-chih (毛來枝).

Many Siraya people converted to Christianity following Dutch rule, including Mao Lai-chih, and traditional rites were neglected, Mao Jen-mei said.

However, the Japanese colonial government promoted Siraya practices, and Mao Lai-chih later became a witch who oversaw the community’s rituals and performed exorcisms, Mao Jen-mai said.

“Although we now hold the night sacrifice every year, we can see from the film that much of our heritage has been lost or changed,” she said.

Lo Tung-wen (羅通文), 101, hummed along with the recording of a song in the Siraya language and said it was traditionally sung by a male and female singer while at rest.

The song remains popular among Siraya people, but the words have changed to Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), because of the loss of the Siraya language, Lo said.

The Siraya are not officially recognized by the government, but are considered part of the Pingpu community.

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