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Yawi Noming, the Last Tattooed Warrior

R.I.P, Yawi Noming, the last Tayal warrior!

 

Yawi Noming, the last tattooed warrior

“My face was bleeding. It was so hurt!”

Yawi Noming is a Tayal from the tribe B’anax in Miaoli, Taiwan, and was the last Tayal man who had the traditional facial tattoos. He recalled the process of having the tattoo in one personal inerview years ago, they used a wood fixed by four needles to prick around on his face, and then dyed with the dyes made from Taiwan red pine:

“My face was bleeding. It was so hurt!”

 

Yawi married his wife, Puoh Kagi, also a Tayal from B’anax who had a traditional facial tattoos, in his 22. Unfortunately, he was dispatched by the Japanese Colonial Government to Southeast Asia to fight against the Allies during the WWII just two months after he got married. His wife Puof Kagi was not luckier than him and was forced to serve as a comfort woman (慰安婦) in a Japanese military camp, for which she got pregnant and dared not to return to her tribe. Her life as a comfort woman in the camp was such a torture that had had great impact on her health afterwards.

Luckily, Yawi returned to Taiwan safely (and was the only tribal man that returned safely) and was able to take care of his wife. They continued their hard but happy life after reunion until 6 years ago when Puoh passed away. The famous Last Tattooed Couple became a single man. And now, 11 days ago on Jul 15, Yawi as the last Tayal man who still had the traditional facial tattoo died of disease, there is no more Tayal man with a traditional tattoo ever since. Now, including Truku, there are only six Taiwanese indigenous people, all women, who still have the traditional facial tattoos in Taiwan.

 

As beautiful as the flowers are their tattoos and the cultures behind

“They show their bravery with the practice of headhunting, and their facial tattoos are as beautiful as flowers……”

Heng Lian, a Chinese historian came to Taiwan in the early 19th century. After experiencing the exotic life in Central Taiwan, he left four songs called “Puli Tribe”, wherein one of the songs is as following:

“The strong winds whistle on the path that fences off the Taiwanese indigenous people. Some indigenous people’s huts that stand to the mountain rocks can be seen…… They show their bravery with the practice of headhunting, and their facial tattoos are as beautiful as flowers……”

When Heng Lian wrote down the passages, he felt uneasy to stay in a totally different culture there and was afraid actually, and so expressed her worry by describing the exotic customs and cultures of the local Tayal or Seediq.

 

The local indigenous cultures caused the Japanese people’s worry, too, that came after Heng Lian; however, what the Japanese people were worried about was the preservation of the traditional cultures might make the indigenous people more united, and so forced the people to stop the facial tattoos and headhunting so that they could have better control over the local communities.

 

Does the situation sound familiar even nowadays?

 

We have no intention to promote the practice of the facial tattoos, but we do think that to say the core value of the tattoos, or ‘gaga’ in Tayal, is as beautiful as flowers is appropriate.

May the flowers blossom forever.


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Photo via crazydean(CC Licensed)