Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Am Atayal Program in Nan'ao

**Nan'ao village
*our students
Teaching Atayal (泰雅) aboriginal youth in Nan'ao (南澳) Taiwan is a life-changing experience. I am working with a group of first and second graders who are incredibly open, warm, enthusiastic, and interested in learning. I can just tell that they understand what a privilege it is to have an education and to have adults in your life who care about you. They are generous, considerate, and creative. It is a gift to be able to watch them grow and develop and become more confident and empowered. It is a gift to be able to see myself grow and develop and learn from their undying spirit. 
**mural behind the school
**students interpret Atayal folktale using collage and oil pastels
*Atayal word
Mikael Owunna, Jennifer Huang and I have been working with this group of students since November in a program we call "I am Atayal." This after school program is part of my Fulbright Research Project as a Senior Research Scholar and it takes place at Nan'ao Elementary School in Nan'ao village. The village (7 villages comprising 5000 people) are about 98% Atayal, which is the second largest aboriginal group in Taiwan. Most of the students live in poverty and many do not graduate from high school. Because students are required to learn Mandarin and English in school, many of them do not know the Atayal language that their grandparents speak.
The purpose of the program is to use artistic and creative techniques to meaningfully engage Atayal children in an educational program that builds cultural pride, explores Atayal identities, families, and communities, and teaches children English and Atayal language. This program is also an opportunity for the students to share their language and teach others about their lives.
*clay design
In this program, Atayal youth explore what it means to be Atayal in the context of their self identity, family relationships and friendships. Atayal youth used disposable cameras to take photos of themselves, family, friends, and things that make them feel proud to be Atayal. They also selected Atayal words to describe themselves in these contexts. Students are also learning specific Atayal symbols that can help represent who they are as an Atayal. For example, many Atayal murals and weavings have specific designs that emerge from folktales in that culture. These designs may be incorporated into a painting or drawing that we do as part of this program. 
**Nan'ao home
One of the most rewarding aspects of the program has been spending time in Nan'ao village after school. We have been exploring old temples and murals with students, visiting the Atayal cultural museum and learning about their artistic traditions. We have visited weaving rooms and received a lesson in weaving from an elder in the community. These critical parts of community life give me insight into the lives of these incredible students. 
Exciting news! We have been invited by National Taiwan Museum to do an exhibition of the "I am Atayal" program featuring the Atayal students' art projects and Mikael's photos documenting the entire program and various lesson plans. The show is scheduled to open Summer of 2014 in Taipei and will tour to various cities in Taiwan. The students will also be invited to the opening so they can see the powerful impact of their work. 
*photo by Mikael Owunna
  **photo by Christine Yeh
Other links:
Atayal school
Atayal words and language
Atayal Art
Atayal Murals
Atayal tattoos
Atayal patterns and design
Atayal weaving  
Atayal children 


  1. Dr. Yeh, I just want to comment that I love your blog. My name is Bai, a 1st year at USF PPS program, and many of my classmates are following your great work as well. Keep it up!: )

  2. Hi Bai, So great to hear from you. Thanks for reading my blog. I wish you all could visit here too! I look forward to seeing you when I return to San Francisco!

  3. Hi Professor Yeh!
    Your work is so inspiring and have refreshed my own ideas of working w. young children. Thank you for sharing your passion with the world!

  4. Dear Christine - I try to get in touch with you, but I cannot find your e-mail address. Here is mine: magdalena [at] kachniewska.net