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I Am an Aboriginal Atayal Woman

Atayal Woman Penny Su Yang, Artist, Singer, Photographer

I am a singer, an artist and photographer. I have been a professional performer for over 30 years, and have a daughter and a son.

I started to create visual art when I was 48, and had my first photo exhibition in 2018. It’s 2024, and I feel so honored to have my first exhibition in a museum this year. Creating is important to me, to create is to discover yourself. Home has a lot of meaning too, returning back to yourself, but also back to your roots, your culture, your spirit life.

My upcoming exhibition is called 「Tmnga • Bsilung  / 看·海」; it means when you look, you look very patiently, for a long time, with hope, with your soul. It’s very poetic.

Go to the Ocean

From my hometown, you can see both the mountains and the ocean. I have a deep, strong connection with the ocean and when I was young, I would go for long walks.  That was the beginning of the story. One day, I prayed to God, “God what is the color of your eyes?”

This was the first time I heard a reply, God said “Go to see the ocean”. I did, and it immediately lifted my heart, and everything melted away. The ocean is God’s eyes…isn’t that magnificent? Always changeable, it creates a melody in my heart. The color of the ocean is a reflection of what is happening.

“我問上帝:

pqutan maku yaba utux kayal

「你的眼睛是什麼顏色?」

maynanu qu brbiru na roziq su

祂說:「你去看海。」

kmal mha ”usa tmnga bsilung ha”

In Atayal language we don’t have a word for color, but my friend said you can use bibiru, the universe, something that holds everything.

This exhibition is about the love between me as a woman and the sea; the ocean is not just the ocean, it is the universe; it is about my past, my childhood, everything.

I think women need to look more into our hearts. Women are playing so many roles: mother, daughter, wife…taking care of everyone but ourselves. So creating like this is to look more into myself and see how beautiful I am.

I’m also working on a new music album in Atayal language: 「3 cyugal / Three」

I think women are just waiting for the right time for all these stories we’ve collected inside us to burst out. I really encourage every woman to be true to herself. The album details came to me in a very powerful dream.

Three Women’s Stories  

My mother is already in heaven, but in my dream she walked into a house where an old woman was weeping on the bed. She started hugging her. The room was very dark, sad and lonely so I stepped in and hugged them. The three of us became a circle. The darkness became white light, like in your mother’s womb. I woke up and the power of it brought the number three to me. Three is the number of the universe :

  • Soul
  • Body
  • Mind
  • Sky
  • Ocean
  • Land
  • Past
  • Present
  • Future

The picture in my mind is of my daughter, my mother and I. My mother is a traditional woman, with a tattooed face, I am a modern woman, and my daughter is like an alien from the future. I wanted to do an album with three women’s stories. I am going to sing my mother’s story. It’s about tradition, generations of Atayal identity to leave behind for my daughter.

Go back to your roots. Go back to nature.

All indigenous people in the world face the same struggle. Our cultures are disappearing. But no matter where I am, I still feel proud to be Atayal. I live deeply as Atayal and all the memories live in my heart. My people are not afraid of death, because death is just a door. It’s not the end. I possess the character of an Atayal woman, unafraid and always singing, dancing and creating positivity. When we are weaving, we are always singing. It’s in our blood.

I decided to use old electronic instruments on this album, which I’m excited about. I have a very old friend who plays the theremin, invented in the early 1900s, which is on the album. It’s an experimental sound.

We are family, with this earth. Make an effort to unify, not to divide. You have to treasure who you are, where you come from, and then you can focus on unity. Women’s power is incredible, precious, we have so much potential, no matter the age. You can still unearth new things from within, every season, every age.

「Tmnga •Bsilung  /看·海」蘇婭 Suyang數位攝影個展 on FaceBook, on Instagram

時間:2024/5/19-6/23 (5/19開幕式下午兩點)

地點:順益美術館 Shungye-Art .Org /台北市中正區延平南路5號 – Shengye Musuem

Suyang-Penny ”Atayal Electronic Music Album-「3 cyugal / Three」”

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