Ethnographic Film

Ethnographic Film

Ethnographic film and Bunun oral history | Nabu Istanda (left) and his uncle (right) | Click to learn more...

ETHNOGRAPHIC FILM AND BUNUN ORAL HISTORY IN SOUTHERN TAIWAN

In 2003, I met David Blundell, founding anthropologist for the International Master's Program in Taiwan Studies at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan. David was teaching a course called Culture and Ethnic Structure of Taiwan, and ethnographic filmmaking was one of the topics in the class. Although I had very little experience in this area, I tagged along with David to learn more.

 

 

I was a first-time graduate student, and was looking for an adventurous and rewarding research topic. Through David and senior students at the university, I was introduced to Filmmaker Tommie Williamson (1955-2017) (see my Taiwan Studies page) and Nabu Istanda with the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation (Bunun Village) in Taitung, southern Taiwan.

Nabu encouraged me to come to the Bunun Village and meet his family who were from the Bunun tribe, an indigenous ethnolinguistic group who had resisted Japanese subjugation in the 1920s and 30s and taken refuge in a remote area of the high mountains named Laipunuk (Chinese Nei Ben Lu 內本鹿).

Nabu Istanda at home in the mountains of Laipunuk | Nei Ben Lu 內本鹿

Nabu explained that the Bunun elders in their village, now 70 to 90 years old, were being lost to old age, and with them, their stories of traditional life, beliefs, language, trade, values, and their relationships with one-another, other indigenous tribes, the Chinese, and the Japanese, were being lost forever.

Nabu was asking for rescue ethnography.

Without hesitation, I agreed to help.

The next four years of my life alternated between the classroom in Taipei and the remote mountains of southern Taiwan. I spent most of my life savings on travel, camera gear and mountaineering equipment.

I have now documented this story and research into several pages and videos on this website. If you're inspired to learn more, please review this page and other pages and videos by following links below:

In Our Hearts and Minds | Project backstory | 2004

ETHNOGRAPHIC FILM AND RESEARCH | BUNUN ORAL HISTORY

Memories of a Culture, the Istanda Family of Laipunuk 內本鹿 

Filmed primarily at the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation (Bunun Village), Taoyuan Village, Yenping Township, Taiwan.

The sample footage provided here includes ethnographic narratives from four siblings, namely two brothers, Biung and Nabu, and two sisters, Ibu and Langus. Each informant recounts their personal experience in the high mountains of southern Taiwan, including historical and cultural events of their forced relocation to the lowland areas surrounding Taitung.

This research is the original work of Tommie Williamson, Nabu Istanda, and Steven Martin, and is intended for academic and cultural purposes. If you would like to use a video for research, gain access to the complete archival footage, or collaborate on a project, please contact me through this website and I will be happy to help.

Tama Biung Istanda | Oral History | Bunun | Laipunuk 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video, one of 15 clips, is an oral history audio/visual recording of Tama Biung Istanda (1917-2007), recounting his life experience in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 , southern Taiwan. The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by his nephew Nabu. Laipunuk was among the last frontier areas of Taiwan to be annexed into Imperial Japan, and the informant tells of his childhood experiences, cultural traditions, and arrival of Japanese police who forced his family to move.

Accepting that the Japanese were a "Great and powerful tribe", Biung joined the Tagasako Volunteers, a group of Taiwan aborigine soldiers. His on-camera story includes events during WWII and his survival in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

Tama Biung Istanda 1917-2007 | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

Sections of this ethnography series have been published in Religion, law and state: Cultural re-invigoration in the new age as referenced below.

Nabu (Uncle) Istanda | Oral History | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video, one of three clips, is an oral history audio/visual recording of Nabu "Uncle" Istanda, recounting his life experience in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 (Nei Ben Lu), southern Taiwan. The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language his nephew Nabu. Laipunuk was among the last frontier areas of Taiwan to be annexed into Imperial Japan. The informant tells of his youth and cultural experiences, the arrival of Japanese police, and his family's forced relocation to the Talunas area (Taidong County).

Sections of this ethnography series have been published in Religion, law and state: Cultural re-invigoration in the new age as referenced below.

Nabu (Uncle) Istanda | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

Langus Istanda | Oral History | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video, one of five clips, is an oral history audio/visual recording of Langus Istanda (1920-2015) recounting her life experience in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 , southern Taiwan. The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by her son Nabu. Laipunuk was among the last frontier areas of Taiwan to be annexed into Imperial Japan. The informant tells of her childhood experiences, cultural traditions, and arrival of Japanese police who forced her family to move.

An English-language translation of this video has been published in the International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies (IJAPS) as referenced below.

Langus Istanda 1920-2015 | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

Ibu Istanda | Oral History | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video is an oral history audio/visual recording of Ibu Istanda who was in her mid-80s at the time of filming. On-camera support for the interview was provided by her younger sister, Langus. The first of two short interviews of Ibu "Auntie" Istanda before her passing, she tells of the hardships experienced in her youth. As with other family informants in this series, Ibu recounts her life experience in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 , southern Taiwan. The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by her son Nabu and her sister Langus.

Ibu Istanda | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

AUDIO-VISUAL RECORDINGS FROM BUNUN INFORMANTS WITH EXPERIENCE IN LAIPUNUK

Zu Mei Lin (Bunun name Shiwa) | Ethnography | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video is an audio-visual recording of Shiwa (Chinese name Zhu Mei Lin). The interview focuses around the informant's understanding of her Hakka Chinese grandfather's marriage to Bunun and their relocation to Laipunuk from Lakuli, a Japanese trading station across the Central Range, west of Laipunuk. Shiwa's father, of Hakka Chinese and Bunun mixed blood, lived in Laipunuk and made and traded guns and gunpowder in the villages of Takivahlas, Halipusun, and Mamahav. Shiwa explains her family grew corn, millet, pumpkin, sweet potato, taro and tobacco.

Lin Zu Mei (Shiwa) | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by Nabu Istanda. An English transcript of this video is available upon request and interview content is appears in the publications listed below.

Gu Song Shan | Ethnography | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video is an audio-visual recording of Bunun Gu Song Shan. On-camera support for the interview was provided by Langus Istanda. The first of two interviews, his talks about his life experience, villages and places in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 , southern Taiwan. The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by Nabu Istanda.

Gu Song Shan | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

Gu Yu Chun Lan | Ethnography | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video is an audio-visual recording of Bunun Gu Yu Chun Lan. On-camera support for the interview was provided by her friend, Langus Istanda. The second of two interviews, she answers questions about Haisul, the notorious Bunun rebel and the events leading to the Laipunuk Incident and forced removal of the Bunun from Laipunuk by the Japanese field police. As with other family informants in this series, she recounts her life experience in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 , southern Taiwan. The interview was conducted in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by Nabu Istanda.

Gu Yu Chun Lan | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

Yu Xing Yo (Bunun name Biung) | Ethnography | Bunun | Laipunuk | 內本鹿 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video is an audio-visual recording of Bunun Yu Xing Yo. On-camera support for the interview was provided by Langus Istanda. The first of two interviews, his talks about his life experience, including the village of Takivahlas, where the Istanda family first built their home in the mountains of Laipunuk 內本鹿 , southern Taiwan.

The interview was conducted at the Bunun Village (Bunun Buloa 布農部落) in the Isbukun dialect of the Bunun language by Nabu Istanda.

Yu Xing Yo (Biung) | Ethnohistorical Research | Bunun of Laipunuk, Taiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

Bia Shirakimura 白木村 | Ethnography | Paiwan | Bia Culture 白聖賀 | Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

This video is an audio-visual recording of Bia Shirakimura. On-camera support for the interview was provided by his Bunun wife, Langus Istanda. One of four clips in which Bia talks about his life experiences, including the Paiwan village of Bia (白聖賀 Bia Culture), growing up in Tubabalu (now called Tudan) South of Taidong City, and joining the Japanese military as a Takasago Volunteer. He tells us about meeting and marrying his Laipunuk Bunun wife, Langus Istanda, in Bashkal, near today’s Bunun Buloa, and the issues he faced from marrying out of his culture. The interview was mainly conducted in Japanese by Nabu Istanda.

Bia Shirakimura 白木村 | Ethnohistorical Research | Paiwan | Steven Martin | University Filmworks

ETHNOMUSICOLOGY AND THE STAGE AT BUNUN VILLAGE

Indigenous Music of Taiwan | Part 1 | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

The stage at the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation in Taidong, Taiwan, allowed an opportunity to record the musical traditions of the Bunun and other indigenous groups. The majority of the participants' families were originally from Laipunuk. Though personal interviews with the participants in this video, English-language synopses were developed (see bottom of the Ethnographic Research page).

As European powers contacted and influenced ethnolinguistic Austronesian-speaking peoples in Southeast Asia, vocal folk songs were particularly influenced by the introduction of new musical instruments. In contrast, the Bunun held on to acappella traditions, and vocal music retained rich and complicated in style and content. The acappella styles featured here range from the most basic to some of the the most complicated of all modern vocal music. With songs for nearly every occasion of life, content includes those for religious ceremonies, worship, nature, work and recreation.

Indigenous Music of Taiwan | Part 1 | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

Please visit my Ethnographic Research page (bottom of page) to learn more.

THE ETHNOGRAPHIC MOMENT | MUSIC AND SOLIDARITY IN TAIWAN

Remastered from "Nikar's Hot Springs Moment"

Filmed at the Hong Ye Hot Springs, Taitung County, Taiwan, three friends from different ethnolinguistic backgrounds meet coincidentally.

  • Nikar/ female/ granddaughter of an Amis shaman and singer.
  • Hawai/ male/ Puyuma/ guitarist
  • Asui/ male/ Kavalan/ wood carver

This recording was unplanned and the artists’ cultural expressions are spontaneous, songs blending and changing tempos and lyrics as each person interjects their own feeling and cultural background when singing their part.

The blending of aboriginal music in this film exemplifies the contemporary trend of solidarity among Taiwan’s indigenous cultures. For example, Amis melody is usually one step faster than Puyuma, and individuals must adjust to each other, while Japanese and Chinese influences on indigenous music reflect the events of last century.

Notes on the content of the video based on personal interviews with the participants. Six pieces of music.

  1. Amis
  2. Amis/ same as song 1 but with Puyuma melody.
  3. Puyuma/ melody from Nanwan area near Taidong/may be the type of song and feeling when meeting a friend from your home town.
  4. Amis/ new melody with Japanese influences.
  5. Amis/ Puyuma/ from Katiputa (Puyuma village)/ new creation/ melody may come from Ziben Hotsprings area (on the road to Kaohsiung from Taitung)/ an Amis/ Puyuma composition with some Chinese language/many aboriginals sing this song today/words indicate solidarity/we are all family.
  6. Amis/ Puyuma/ song used to bring the spirit of friends together/usually sung a-cappella style/ it has the sense of crying out for recognition.

The Ethnographic Moment | Music and Solidarity in Taiwan | Steven A. Martin | University Filmworks

Thank you for visiting my Ethnographic Film page.

I hope you enjoy the videos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about my experience in ethnographic researchTaiwan Studies, or would like to arrange for me to give a public presentation, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin