Indigenous artist denies sexual assault claim in online story

12/24/2021 03:32 PM
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Sakuliu Pavavaljung. CNA file photo
Sakuliu Pavavaljung. CNA file photo

Update: Artist's Biennale appearance halted due to sexual assault allegations (Jan. 12, 2022)

Taipei, Dec. 24 (CNA) Indigenous artist Sakuliu Pavavaljung on Friday denied a claim he sexually assaulted a teenage girl, following the description of an assault in an online story earlier this month that led many to accuse the artist of being the perpetrator and local prosecutors to launch an investigation.

In his first response to the story, Sakuliu, a 61-year-old award winning artist from the Paiwan tribe, said the incident depicted in the story never happened.

"I did not do what the online story alleges," Sakuliu said. "I will clear things up when I talk to the judicial authorities about the matter."

On Dec. 16, artist Kuo Yu-ping (郭俞平) published a piece titled Story of a Small Town, in which he describes how a Paiwan artist, who Kuo calls Kulusa, sexually assaulted a 19-year old female fan of his work earlier this year.

Since the story was published, numerous readers have concluded the artist in question is Sakuliu.

Following the online story, Yu Yue-lien (余悅廉), an engineer, claimed in a Facebook post on Dec. 19 that Sakuliu attempted to sexually assault her in the summer of 2006 when she visited an exhibition of his work.

Following the allegations, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, which was set to feature the veteran artist at the Taiwan Pavilion for the 59th Venice Biennale and Kassel Documenta in Germany in 2022 said on Monday that work on the curation will be halted "until things are clarified."

The National Culture and Arts Foundation, which granted Sakuliu a National Culture and Arts Award in 2018, said it is halting sponsorship of the artist.

Prosecutors in Pingtung have launched a probe into the matter.

Sakuliu said in the statement that in the wake of Kuo's article, people in the cultural arena, as well as friends and family have expressed concern over the issue.

"I am innocent," Sakuliu said. But, "I will continue my preparatory work for the upcoming exhibitions." He declined to make any further comment on the moves by Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the National Culture and Arts Foundation to halt his sponsorship.

Born in a Paiwan village in Sandimen Township, Pingtung County, Sakuliu creates works in various forms, including painting, sculpture, installation, and architecture.

He also actively works to preserve Indigenous culture through art and activism.

(By Wang Bao-er, Lee Hsin-ying and Frances Huang)

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