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Hands Of A Weaver Meet Eyes Of Maori TV Viewers

The Hands Of A Weaver Meet The Eyes Of Maori Television Viewers

“Thank you for coming to see me. I’m afraid my cold hands can’t warm you. Actually, my feet are cold too. But I have a warm heart.” These words uttered by a 90-year-old Taiwanese grandmother epitomise the resilience of an elderly woman striving to keep her cultural traditions alive in the documentary THE HANDS OF A WEAVER, screening on Maori Television on Wednesday March 30 at 10.00 PM.

For the Bunan people of Taiwan’s rugged inner mountain ranges, their traditional nomadic lifestyle has evolved into a static existence after pressure from the Japanese authorities. Due to Japan’s government policy in 1917, the Bunan were forced to grow rice in terraced fields, as opposed to their traditional millet, which caused immense changes in their traditional culture. Now, almost 100 years since this enforced change in resources and a history of slavery to the Japanese government, the Bunan can be found scattered along the central mountain range of Taiwan, predominantly in Hwalien, Tai-Tong, Kao-Shong and Dan-Da.

Grandma Ku Yue-Nu – of the Dragon Village in Dan-Da – is a living relic of a time past when her family were forced to learn the ancient art of weaving ramie thread in order to clothe themselves under oppressive circumstances.

“I have learned weaving since I was 10. Without weaving, we would have had nothing to wear. If he was out working, the husband would wear the clothes and wives would only wear the clothes if they went out with a baby. Because our clothing was so scarce, we had to work hard at our weaving,” she says.

The process of weaving ramie thread is elaborated in great detail through the documentary narrative and the spindle hands of the elderly woman who has been charged with handing down this treasured gift to a new generation of women. A master weaver, she explains the process from the collection of wild ramie through to the boiling of various plants to achieve certain colours through to the final product, resplendent in symbolic patterns and designs.

The revitalisation of ramie thread weaving has not escaped its share of woes. The 921 Earthquake that shook Taiwan to the ground in September of 1999 had a devastating affect on the livelihood of Bunan women.

The damage caused by the 921 Earthquake and Typhoon Toraji ruined the transportation infrastructure, which in turn saw the cessation of tourist arrivals. Women weavers faced financial problems and an inevitable loss of confidence in their cultural practices. As their goods weren’t selling, there was a discernible loss of interest in the production of fine ramie thread.

Enter The Association for the Development of Bunan Culture and a mass movement to revitalise the art of weaving before it is lost forever. Join Grandma Ku Yue-Nu in her mission to keep a cultural taonga alive on THE HANDS OF A WEAVER, screening on Maori Television on Wednesday March 30 at 10.00 PM.

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