screenshot from Amis Hip Hop
Amis Hip Hop (阿美嘻哈) is a documentary about the age-grade ceremony of the Amis in Dulan (都蘭), Taidong County. A version of the documentary can be downloaded from the official website. I wrote the following about it in a paper for the Culture and Ethnic Structure of Taiwan class.
What most impressed me about this documentary was how the young people in Dulan skillfully combined tradition and modernity. These two things are often thought of as being antagonistic to the other. In Dulan village the young people used the latest popular music as part of their age group ceremony. However, I don't think this weakened or diluted their culture in any way. The most important thing about the ceremony was building community and strengthening identity which was clearly achieved.
Many people view indigenous cultures as unchanging or static, thinking that they are maintaining the way of life that they lived centuries or even millennia ago. However, in reality all things are in a constant state of change. Cultures adapt and respond to events that occur both within and around them. If they failed to respond to change then they would quickly die. It is the process of change that gives them vibrance and life.
I think in the Dulan village the young people have found ways of adapting the new while simultaneously strengthening the community. Through their “hip hop” they are not saying they will do things exactly as our elders did them. But at the same time they are showing respect to their elders by maintaining the age group tradition.
Amis Hip Hop also screened at the Ethnographic Film Festival in Taipei last year. At that festival I saw the documentary Pas-taai: The Saisiat Ceremony in 1936. It showed the Pas-taai ceremony (矮靈祭) as it was recorded in 1936 and another documentary showing the same ceremony in 1986 was screened after it. The form of the dance was almost unchanged.
A recent Taipei Times article about the screening of the 70 year old documentary in Da'ai community (大隘村) in Xinzhu County quotes an elder as saying:
Noting the similarities between the celebration that took place 70 years ago and the one last year, Mamavale, also a Saisiat elder, says, "This documentary shows that, like food, the Saisiat are capable of preserving that which gives Aboriginal people nourishment. Where other tribes discard the fruits of their harvest, the Saisiat retain the riches from the ground. Other Aboriginal people change their rituals, only the Saisiat preserve them."
It is interesting to contrast the conservatism of the Saisiat with the progressive traditions of the Amis in Dulan. However, both groups are actively maintaining their identity and community in the modern world.