Bridging Ancient Wisdom and the Modern World

When I arrived at the Museum of World Religions, I did not expect to end my day roaring out loud, thrusting my fists forward in a rare moment of community connection, but that is exactly what happened, and it felt liberating.

The event was Bridging Ancient Wisdom and the Modern World, organised by the Museum of World Religions and Red Room, to celebrate International Women’s Day with the #EmbraceEquity. In reality it was more than a celebration, inspiring, educational, thought provoking and rooted in the history of Taiwan’s indigenous females.

Expecting to see mostly women in the room, I was emboldened to see men. One of the speakers Elisa Chiu couldn’t have voiced it better when she said “we need more allies, it’s a movement”. The men I met from the USA, Mexico and Taiwan all expressed that they were keen to support. JJ. Chen, photographer said, “one common thread was, regardless of their respective environment, just how hard it is for women to thrive in a generally male-dominated environment. That’s certainly nothing new but hearing it directly from each of their perspectives was eye opening just how much we, males, take everything for granted”.

We started the day with video messages collected from the female Elders of the tribes of Taiwan, Kanakanavu, Atayal and Paiwan, represented by indigenous women sharing their stories. The remaining 13 tribes of Taiwan were honoured in name and image. The themes of their stories were moving, the impact of colonialism on the women’s language, culture and identity still present today as they expressed the hardships of fitting into a society forced upon them. The strength of the role of the mother and the wisdom passed down through generations was enlightening to hear. I couldn’t help but think of my own mother and how easy it is to take this relationship for granted. I am guilty of not calling enough, and certainly not telling her how her love and wisdom continues to shape me into the woman I am today.

This theme continued as we heard from a panel of talented, dedicated speakers. Elisa Chiu– CEO of Anchor Taiwan, Romona Guan – Global Value Business Director at FiO Taiwan, Lou Mo – Artist and Curator, Dr Malabika Das – Health and Wellness Practitioner and Mulinung Tangiradan – Indigenous Culture and Youth, made for a diverse panel of women, all keen to share

their own wisdom and experiences. The session was moderated expertly by Dr. Christie Chang as she allowed space for each speaker, whilst encouraging us to connect, ask questions, and share our own experiences. It is rare to find not only a safe space, but a brave space. One where I feel unbridled by my own anxieties. As a regular Red Room Rendezvous patron, I know that the Red Room culture prides itself in the warmth of listening and connection at all of their events and this was no exception.

The first question put to the panel asked them to define what wisdom they would wish to pass down to the next generation. Interestingly, they all responded with answers relating to their mothers. We were all clearly moved by Mulinung sharing that “as a girl my mother told me that there is nothing I can give to you, I don’t have a beautiful house, a nice car, money, even this land does not belong to me. Your life and breath belong to the almighty and you have to give to yourself. The only thing that I can give is belief and the courage to face challenges, legs to walk forward, eyes to see the truth, hands to work hard, and the spirit to live”. I found myself feeling glad that I came, strengthened by being in a room full of women willing to be vulnerable, honoured that the panel had taken the time out of their Saturday to share their wisdom.

This continued unabated throughout the morning. Romona spoke with humour about being a woman in the world of tech, defiant in her belief that women should be collaborating rather than in competition and to tell the next generation “don’t worry we will back you up”. Lou was fascinating as we heard about her experiences as a lone Asian female travelling in West Africa for her art, often asked what are you doing here? Calling on all of us to reflect on the importance of trust, “how do we want to be in the world with others, how do we trust them and allow them to trust you?” Malabika spoke fondly of her spirituality and the importance of knowing our whole selves to act with intent. “Visualise things, and put your intentions out there, things will come your way”. 

It was clear that Elisa had built a company from the ground up and it was useful to hear practical advice, as a woman in a man’s world “we have 3 options, 1. do nothing, 2. fight within the existing system or 3. go outside of it and make something new”. She chose to make something new and I felt grateful that she had, not only as a model to young Taiwanese women, but to all women.

Mulinung acknowledged the division of labour within the tribes of Taiwan is changing. Whilst traditions are still passed down, men can become weavers and women hunters. My own assumptions challenged, I felt privileged to be in this space with these incredible women.

Throughout the session, we were treated to full simultaneous interpretation. Live translation by Priya meant that this was the first event I had attended in Taiwan that felt fully inclusive and accessible for English or Mandarin speakers. Priya spoke excellently in both languages, picking up on all the nuanced answers and expressions of a live discussion.

“I was very impressed with how accessible this event was. As I mentioned to a few people I met on the day, I was looking for a way to celebrate International Women’s Day in Taipei. I couldn’t ask for a better-found opportunity to meet and discuss ideas with empowering women from diverse backgrounds”. Alexandra – Event Attendee

The final question to the panel summed up what we were all feeling. Christie asked the panellists to return to the question of what is the one thing that you would pass down to the next generation? Mulinung answered simply 愛 – love”. It was then that I was roaring out loud, thrusting my fists forward in a rare moment of community connection as Malabika asked us to roar like lions, powerful, strong and majestic.  It was the perfect end to a day full of connection and optimism. I was reminded that as women we are positive, passionate, funny, humble and open. We seek to empower each other to not hold back. Go out there, make change happen, make mistakes, be brave, we are here to support you.

If that is not a clear message to #EmbraceEquity, then I don’t know what is.

Love and Wisdom

~ Gemma Green

A Taipei resident since January 2020, Gemma Green has a background in UK NGO management and community work, which has allowed her to use her time volunteering for a number of projects in Taiwan. Keen to learn more about Taiwanese society and its people, she is passionate about writing, photography and the stories that are within us all.

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