I live on Paiwan land, in the southern part of Taiwan, in Manzhou Township 滿州鄉, Pingtung County 屏東縣. This area is part of the beautiful and renowned Kenting National Park 墾丁國家公園.
The Paiwan indigenous people of Taiwan are the second-largest indigenous group on Formosa. There are approximately 95,000 Paiwan people. The majority of them live in the southern part of the island.
Scooter Trips in Paiwan Country
Whenever the weather isn’t too crazy, my favorite thing to do is to jump on my scooter, camera bag over my shoulder, and ride around the mountains, valleys, and rivers near my house.
There are hundreds of narrow roads heading in all directions all over the region.
The best way to explore on a scooter, is to just take a turn whenever it feels right, and follow the road until you see something that catches your eye. Sometimes, the road abruptly ends at a small temple or a farmer’s house with the occasional barking dogs. Often, the asphalt gives way to a muddy dirt track, which can be fun if you’re comfortable on two wheels.
The best is when the road leads to a Paiwan aboriginal community. Within a 5km radius around my house, there are six buluo 部落 or “tribal communities”. These small Paiwan villages all have a very interesting feature: there are colorful paintings and carvings of ancient aboriginal daily life on display by the road on the outskirts of the settlements.
Over the years, I’ve heard many people complain that this kind of aboriginal Taiwanese “art” is not genuine, that it’s just a cheap, fake reproduction of native traditional art used to lure tourists. It may be true for other places in Taiwan, but this kind of Paiwan art couldn’t be more genuine – it is made by one man who has dedicated his life to his craft and the study of traditional Taiwanese aboriginal life.
I had the chance to have a conversation with a lady who works as a Paiwan interpretation guide at a protected area 四林格山 and she told me a bit about the artist. His aim is to illustrate ancient Paiwan daily life and traditional ceremonies in pictures, so people can understand more how this aboriginal tribe use living in the past.
Here are some of his paintings, which I photographed in Manzhou and Mudan townships in Pingtung County: