To’onna Tamu

Following the damage to the highway 21, during typhoon Morakot, the people of Namasia were effectively marooned in the area for years. This has lead to lack of access to medical care, education and other essentials. In response to the latter, a resourceful group of local women has started the To’onna Tamu project.

To’onna Tamu means ‘where the old people are’ in the local tongue, Kanakanavu.

‘Old people’ in this sense refers to experienced and respected elders with knowledge to pass on to others. The determined ladies behind this community organisation have set up two centres where locals can teach and share traditional skills. To’ona Tamu is a great example of a community banding together to overcome their serious problems by their own initiative, using what they have to benefit others.
To'onna Tamu, Apu'u explains about the traditional kuaru crop

At the Takanua Workstation the ladies teach bread baking and how to grow crops such as the beautiful multicoloured chenopodium plant known as ‘kuaru’, which has a special symbolic meaning in Tsou culture.

As well as teaching traditional agricultural skills, another essential function of the workstation is to enrich the local children’s knowledge of their native language.

All around the workstation there are words painted in Kanakanavu and Chinese together. As well as being great for the community, this is really important cultural preservation work too. All of the indigenous languages of Taiwan are currently endangered and ever since rice cultivation started in Taiwan many years ago, the previous agricultural traditions such as millet cultivation, which had been around for hundreds of years, has been dying off.

With the aforementioned transport difficulties, lack of funding and the typical brain drain from countryside to city, Namasia suffers from a real lack of both school teachers and private tutors.

Academic skills are important as well as traditional ones, so To’ona Tamu also organise an after school teaching centre for children, which is taught by local Mums.

While the people here may face many difficulties, the spirit and resilience of the likes of the To’ona Tamu women is truly inspiring; with a stoic attitude and the determination to hold on, this area may just survive and even prosper again one day.

Big thanks to the ladies at To’onna Tamu for all their kindness and good work. And for cooking us lovely food.

Camera: Leica M-E
Lenses: Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2, Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8


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