Last preserver of Indigenous face tattoos receives posthumous presidential citation

06/25/2022 08:19 PM
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Ipay Wilang
Ipay Wilang's daughter Kimi Uwy (left) receives the presidential citation from Deputy Minister of Culture Hsiao Tsung-huang the presidential citation at a memorial service held in the Seediq village of Tawsay in Hualien County Saturday. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Culture

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) A posthumous citation from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was presented at a memorial service for Ipay Wilang (林智妹), the last government-designated preserver of Indigenous facial tattoos in Taiwan in her home village of Tawsay, Hualien County on Saturday.

The president praised the late Seediq elder's contribution to preserving Indigenous facial tattoos and enriching the country's intangible cultural heritage.

Ipay Wilang passed away on June 18 at her residence in the Seediq village.

Although her registered birthday was April 1, 1922, New Taipei City's Indigenous Peoples Department head Lo Mei-ching (羅美菁) told CNA that Ipay Wilang was actually 106 years old at the time of her passing, as in the past many newborns were registered long after after birth.

In the presidential citation, Tsai acknowledged how facial tattoos are a testament to female virtue in Seediq women.

The president also addressed how the tradition of having face tattoos in the Atayal, Seediq and Truku cultures was banned when Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule between 1895 and 1945.

As a result, Ipay Wilang was forced to remove her facial tattoos when she was 15 which left scars on her face. Tsai honored her resilience and positivity during that difficult time.

President Tsai Ing-wen (second right) and Minister of Culture Lee Yung-te (right) visit Ipay Wilang (second left) and her daughter Kimi Uwy in New Taipei in February 2021. File photo courtesy of Presidential Office
President Tsai Ing-wen (second right) and Minister of Culture Lee Yung-te (right) visit Ipay Wilang (second left) and her daughter Kimi Uwy in New Taipei in February 2021. File photo courtesy of Presidential Office

In addition to the presidential citation, Ipay Wilang was also awarded a First Class Award for Contributions to Indigenous Peoples by the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) in recognition of her status as a living cultural treasure, a title she was officially given in 2016.

Both the citation and award were received at the memorial service, by Ipay Wilang's daughter Kimi Uwy (林朝花).

Due to her status as a living treasure, Ipay Wilang's service was attended by Presidential Office Spokesperson Kolas Yotaka, Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee Deputy Convener Alang Manglavan, Hualien-based historian Kimi Sibal (田貴實) and Legislator Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅).

(By Chiu Tsu-yin, Wu Hsin-yun and James Lo)

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