The hot sun shined on the earth, looking in from the gate of Taitung Sugar Factory, colorful iron sculpture installations lined up along the wall, slowly walking inward, you’ll see the prosperity of sugar-making is mottled, but the atmosphere of cultural creativity is exuberant, and the studio of the well-known Pinuyumayan artist Ushiw Pakaruku was located here.
Bright red, yellow, and green. Once you step into the studio of Ushiw Pakaruku, you can’t help but admire the artist’s magical hands, turning the old sugar warehouse into a beautiful canvas, especially the original tones of red, yellow and green, either red to bloom, or yellow to dazzling and green to eye-catching, even the blue or black backgrounds must be decorated with flowers. These are all important elements of traditional costumes of Pinuyumayan. Paintings are hung on the wall, and they are not inferior completely. You could look at the wrinkled face in the flowers, and also overlook the lively picture of the ceremony. If you get closer, you will also see from the details how fascinating lifestyle this colorful ethic group has. Looking back to the center of the studio, there are several white display stands, Ushiw Pakaruku said that these will be used for exhibition, where he will put handmade bags and key rings for everyone to visit and choose. Wandering around in Ushiw Pakaruku’s studio, not only witnessed the depth of the cultural cultivation, but also was surprised by the breadth of creation that one artist could have.
After a sip of coffee, Ushiw Pakaruku sat down comfortably and began to tell the story of creation. As early as 12 years ago, that was a year when the cultural creativity industry had not flourished yet, Ushiw Pakaruku created a fashion brand called V.WORK, based on the creation of indigenous culture. He adopted the type of American T-shirt to the clothing of the brand, then, he designed a series of Pinuyumayan cultural patterns combined with Pinuyumayan language to bring out a sense of locality. Also, he sewed the classic colors of Pinuyumayan to bags and made key rings. However, the craftsmen in Taitung still focused on traditions such as beading and cross-stitching at that time, and people were still really conservative about the indigenous culture. Therefore, he often failed to make ends meet. Then fortunately, V.WORK successively accepted interviews from Taiwan Indigenous Television and several magazines, and was also invited to participate in Taipei Fashion Week and Taitung Austronesian Culture Festival, which gained a lot of media exposure and public visibility. The dream of bringing more people to contact then identify with their own culture through daily objects had finally been put into practice.
Painting is the most original form of art, and it’s also something Ushiw Pakaruku have loved since he was a child. In recent years, he has resumed painting. In 2019, he was invited by Original Living Art Festival to paint “My Disney” on the wall of the old warehouse, perfectly presenting the beautiful memories of taking nature as an amusement park. The next year, he held the “0.03UP Collection Yang, Mu-Ren Solo Exhibition” at National Taitung Living Arts Center, subverting the previous color style, using 0.03mm black pen to depict the solemnity of Pinuyumayan culture stroke by stroke, but in the same year, he also drew a cultural corridor in Puyuman Experimental Primary School, drawing vivid and colorful historical legends for children. This year, he even completed a one-kilometer-long large-scale painting in Likavung tribe. Ushiw Pakaruku has made breakthroughs in his creation every year, but never stopped exploring the essence of culture. Forests, waters and flowers are never absent. Birds, butterflies and Formosan clouded leopards shuttle among them. The legend goes from the flood to the human-faced bird, and the deer and the princess. He counted them down whole-heartedly, without leaving anything behind.
Speaking of the creation process, he said, “Later, I found that I often improvise when I paint. Although I draw up the design first, when I actually paint, something better occurs to me all the time.” At the same time, he also encourages young creators that as long as you are willing to take the first step, life will bring you endless inspiration. Take himself as an example. Ushiw Pakaruku grew up in the tribe, and the rich culture nurtured his childhood. He went to the mountains to pick fruits, catching shrimps by the stream, talking to the elderly in ethnic language, and participating in different tribal affairs at different ages. Thinking back to the days when everyone played guitar and sang under the starry sky which is his childhood. However, before returning to Taitung, he also moved to Taipei, working in a graphic design company, and later moving to Hualien for study. He had absorbed all kinds of new knowledge and witnessed the wave of times in the past ten years. In the end, with the intention of living in his hometown, he resolutely returned home. Ushiw Pakaruku’s life journey is mixed with old and new, tradition and modernity, and that’s why he has been committed to integrating traditional elements into daily objects. Style comes from culture, and the essence of culture is life.
Asking about the future plan, Ushiw Pakaruku answered without hesitation, “I want to draw a comic! A relaxed, funny, youthful and adventurous comic, that we could talk about family and friendship at the same time, also has unlimited imagination. I set this story to be a parallel universe based on Pinuyumayan culture. Because it is not a serious legend document, nor a sophisticated historical book, so there’s no rules to follow, no restriction ahead, and also no sense of academic distance. In this parallel universe, anything could happen.” He said he grew up reading comics, and often copied his favorite pictures in the book. Through the comics, he got to know the ninjas of the East, the pirates of the West, and the magicians of the Arab world. That was the beginning of his contact with this world. Ushiw Pakaruku has always known that there are so many interesting anecdotes in the culture, but only in recent years, the idea of drawing them into comics came to him, hoping that the comics which grew from the land could attract more people to enjoy the different worldview. It can be seen that this fire of collision between old and new will constantly burn and bloom in the future.