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Taiwan's Paiwan craftswoman revitalizes tribal bead arts at Pingtung studio

Promoting the beauty of Paiwan culture through creativity and innovation, gives Remereman a great sense of satisfaction.

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Taiwan's Paiwan craftswoman revitalizes tribal bead arts at Pingtung studio

Paiwan artisan Taruzaljum Remereman promotes traditional tribal arts and crafts at her studio in Sandimen Township of southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)

Nestled in the mountains of southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County is the picturesque township of Sandimen. Populated largely by members of the indigenous Paiwan tribe, the community is a popular destination for visitors from home and abroad on the strength of its thriving arts and crafts scene and distinctive aboriginal heritage.

One cultural and creative establishment regularly filled to the rafters with tourists is Dragonfly Beads Arts Studio. Established 35 years ago by Taruzaljum Remereman, a 62-year-old Paiwan and former teacher, the business shot to fame in 2008 following the release of Taiwan-made romantic drama “Cape No. 7.” The local box office heavyweight champion featured products created by Dragonfly’s full-time artisans, who number around 10 today.

“Bronze knives, ceramic pots and glass beads are considered the three treasures of Paiwan culture,” Remereman said. “Glass beads are particularly cherished as they’re symbols of aristocracy and essential for the rites of passage.”

Concerned by the loss of bead-makers through migration to urban centers and old age, Remereman set about breathing new life into the traditional practice while creating jobs for female members of the tribe. Part of this process saw her make arduous efforts to learn the craft from scratch and study bead patterns. “Abundant harvests, courage, eternal love, guardianship, nobility and wisdom are just some of the events, emotions and qualities represented in the multihued beads used for bracelets, necklaces and ornaments,” she said.

Taiwan's Paiwan craftswoman revitalizes tribal bead arts at Pingtung studio
Glass beads are used in a host of decorative items including bracelets and necklaces. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)

Thanks to her years of dedication and boundless creative energy, the Paiwan artisan has transformed the studio into a renowned center of tribal arts. More than 100 of her creations have been collected by the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei City. She also regularly participates in exhibitions at home and abroad with the aim of fostering public understanding of the time-honored art form.

“Apart from their rich cultural implications, glass beads have aesthetic and functional value,” she said. “They intended to accompany people in their everyday lives.”

Promoting the beauty of Paiwan culture through creativity and innovation, as well as affording local women the opportunity to earn a living without leaving the village, gives Remereman a great sense of satisfaction. “I can’t wait to wake up in the morning as there’s so many things to do,” she said. “Glass bead art is a signature tradition of our tribal culture and I’m doing my utmost to keep it alive.”

Taiwan's Paiwan craftswoman revitalizes tribal bead arts at Pingtung studio

Remereman (center) oversees the creation of a handcrafted glass bead. (Staff photo/Chin Hung-hao)