"I am Atayal (Tayen)! 我是泰雅族 !"

I am Atayal (Tayen)! was a 2012-2013 collaborative project between Fulbright scholars Mikael Owunna and Dr. Christine Yeh of USF with Taiwanese teaching collaborators Jennifer Huang and Nancy Yang. The purpose of the program was to use artistic and creative techniques to meaningfully engage Atayal Taiwanese aboriginal children in an educational program that builds cultural pride, explores Atayal identities, families, and communities, and teaches children English and Atayal language. I am Atayal (Tayen)! debuted in a full floor exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum in 2014 attended by the thousands of community members, aboriginal leaders, members of Taiwanese Parliament and the US State Department and, most importantly, the young Atayal artists featured in the work. I am Atayal (Tayen)! tours museum and aboriginal cultural spaces throughout Taiwan.

The Atayal are one of Taiwan's 14 recognized aboriginal peoples. Altogether, aboriginal peoples in Taiwan comprise 2% of the population, but have struggled in a system where they face discrimination and systematic stereotyping. Their languages have also slowly eroded over time, as Mandarin Chinese was mandated in all schools since the arrival of the KMT, and Japanese was enforced before then. While there are between 85,000-90,000 Atayal living in Taiwan, the Atayal language is perhaps only spoken fluently by about 35,000. The younger generation of Atayal (20s-40s) can generally not speak their language, although they may understand it. For current Atayal youths, the numbers who can speak and understand their language are even lower. It is unclear how much longer the language will last.

I am Atayal was a cultural and an artistic project to encourage Atayal youth to explore what it means to be Atayal in the context of their self identity, family relationships and friendships. 1st and 2nd grade Atayal youth at Nanao Elementary in Yilan County, Taiwan 南澳國小 received disposable cameras and were taught photographic techniques which they used to take photos of themselves, family, friends, and things they like to do (that relate to being Atayal). They selected key Atayal words to describe themselves in these contexts. These artistic works were built into multimedia projects expressive of their Atayal cultural identities.

View the Project's Full Photographic Archive