Taiwan is one of the major places of origins of Austronesian peoples. There are a total of 16 known indigenous peoples on the island including those the Government of Taiwan recognized just two years ago. Among them, the Amis, who reside along the coast and in the plains of Huatung Valley, are the most populated. Despite their large population, their simple and old lifestyle are struggling to survive in the face of the impact from foreign cultures and modernization. The tribe’s deterioration and decline has become a pressing matter in the Taiwanese society.
A few years earlier, a group of Amis artists who have outflowed to the cities returned to their Mukuta’ay village in Hualian in the hopes of contributing to their people and to the survival of their traditions.
“Kamaro’an” means “the place to live” in the Amis language, and as its name suggests, Kamaro’an is a lifestyle brand of furniture and household products which uses the Amis traditions as their point of departure. On their homepage, it has been noted that all of their designs are inspired by tribal artists’ original works. While the designs are handled by tribal artists, the production itself has been outsourced to local women and the elderly who craft the products with their deft hands.
The card case shown above comes from Kamaro’an’s Weaving Series. The vegetable tanned leather in nude color; the shiny and smooth surface; and its simplistic design – thanks to all these elements, the weaving techniques can shine through. The Amis have always excelled at “weaving in one-go”, and coupled with the use of leather as the weaving material, the designs have become even more consistent, and the products more durable.
In fact, the Amis traditionally only used three kinds of materials for weaving, namely bamboo, shell ginger and rattan. However, after the Government of Taiwan enacted the Forest Law that prohibits people from cutting trees as well as picking and collecting, it has become difficult to maintain and pass on Amis’ weaving traditions. That the “Weaving Series” has used leather as the weaving material is a decision improvised after taking into consideration the designs, as well as the shortage of rattan. At times, when it comes to preserving and revitalizing cultures, regardless of how capable the designers are, the most they can do, it seems, is to fill cracks and give remedies.