YouTube has deleted a video showing Tao elementary-school students on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) dancing in traditional attire after it was erroneously flagged for “obscenity,” the children’s teacher said yesterday.
Yayu Elementary School teacher Yan Tzu-yu (顏子矞) said that when he logged into the school’s YouTube account recently, he was greeted with a message saying that a video he uploaded in 2018 of the children performing a Tao dance to mark the construction of a new classroom had been removed.
The video was flagged by a user, and after a review by YouTube staff was found to have breached the platform’s community standards, the message read.
Photo: Huang Ming-tang, Taipei Times
Yan said the misunderstanding likely stemmed from the Tao clothing worn by the children in the video.
Traditional clothing for Tao males is a cloth tied around the lower body in a manner resembling a modern-day thong, but does not carry any of the implications of a thong in Tao culture, he said.
“My word, in that case all of my flying fish season videos will be deleted,” he said, adding that he was frustrated because YouTube apparently did not respect cultural differences.
It was not the first time the school had had a controversial encounter. The school’s performance troupe, Flying Fish, performed at Poland’s 27th international children’s arts festival last year.
At the festival’s opening ceremony the troupe refused to carry China’s national flag as requested and instead carried Taiwan’s national flag when entering the arena, Yan said, adding that the move gained them praise from Taiwanese.
“Our culture on Orchid Island is beautiful and unique. These children put a great deal of effort into their dances — what is the problem?” Yan said.
Yan said he has contacted YouTube about the misunderstanding, but has yet to receive a reply.
The “thong-style” attire of the Tao is an element of the people’s seafaring culture, and helps them stay cool on Orchid Island’s hot tropical climate, Yan said, adding that the garment is custom-made for each Tao man by a Tao woman.
“That connection also serves as an emotional ‘bridge’ between the man and the woman who made the garment for him,” Yan said.
YouTube should recognize the difference between breaching social customs and traditional culture, and should avoid making “reckless judgments,” Taitung University professor Liu Chiung-hsi (劉炯錫) said.
Taitung County Indigenous People’s Bureau Director Fang Ming-tsung (方銘總) agreed, calling on YouTube to respect Aboriginal culture.
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