The Ethnographical Museum in close collaboration with indigenous people in Taiwan
Since spring 2023, the Ethnographical Museum at Royal Djurgården has been showing a unique exhibition about the Seediq, an indigenous people of Taiwan. The exhibition is a collaboration with the Seediq who themselves have been responsible for the narration. With the help of modern visualization technology and innovative exhibition design, they tell their story with the help of a rediscovered cultural heritage.
An indigenous people tell their own story from refound objects
Seediq means human being and is both the name of an indigenous people in Taiwan and their language. Their ancestors have lived in Taiwan for thousands of years. Over the centuries, they have been repressed by various external powers. Despite that, their culture lives on. In a unique co-creative project the Seediq were invited to tell their own story. They do this in words and interviews from today’s Taiwan. In addition, objects from the Ethnographical Museum are shown side by side with a contemporary 360-degree film.
– We Are Seediq shows how museum collections can have relevance today. To reconnect, recreate, and bring back knowledge that otherwise risks being lost, says Ann Follin, superintendent at the Museum of World Culture. Gaining access to one’s own cultural heritage and thus the opportunity to interpret and represent one’s history are central themes for the exhibition. This is their story, not ours.
A miscategorized collection gets new life
The unique collaboration began with question marks surrounding a collection from Taiwan in the museum magazine. Investigations revealed that the objects had been miscategorized. During the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945), the Seediq were categorized as Atayal, another indigenous group in Taiwan. This despite having their own language and identity. Curators of the museum contacted various institutions in Taiwan and thus got in touch with Seediq representatives. Since the objects were collected for the museum in the early 20th century, much of the traditional culture of the Seediq has been lost. The work with the exhibition has therefore become an important part of their work to revive the knowledge of previous generations and their traditions that are hidden in the objects.
– The intention is not for the objects to be buried and forgotten, but that we should create life in them again and inspire our people and our young people to feel pride in their origins. Our existence is intertwined with our ancestors and the traditional Seediq culture, says Walis Pering, Speaker of the Seediq National Assembly.
Collections and knowledge are made available digitally
Representatives of the Seediq community are now working with the collection managed by the Ethnographical Museum at Royal Djurgården in Stockholm to help revive their culture. In May 2022, a delegation visited the museum to study the objects more closely. Among other things, the women studied the collection’s textiles and drew patterns. These were then used to recreate the textiles in Taiwan. For Seediq, this is a way to reconcile with previous generations. The work has resulted in a digital archive that they now administer. And there are hopes to eventually create a digital museum available for the whole community and to the world.
The collaboration has been noticed in Taiwan https://x.com/taiwanplusnews/status/1698653082605981740?s=20
We Are Seediq is part of the EU-funded Taking Care project. The exhibition has been created in collaboration between the Swedish Museum of World Culture, the Seediq National Assembly in Taiwan, and the Seediq Master’s Program of Providence University in Taiwan. The collaboration is in line with the World Culture Museums’ quest to create sustainable relationships with indigenous groups. And work to decolonize the museum, activate the collection, and collaborate with source communities around the world.
The Ethnographical Museum at Royal Djurgården in Stockholm is a part of The Swedish Museum of World Culture.
- In 2008, Seediq was recognized as an indigenous people in Taiwan. Previously, like the objects in the exhibition, they had been referred to as Atayal.
- Seediq consists of three groups with their own dialects.
- Population: 10,485 (2020 census)
- The exhibition shows 28 historical objects from the Museum of World Culture’s collection.
- Until the collaborative project began, the objects were incorrectly categorized. This was done by the Japanese administration at the time when the items were collected. Thanks to the collaboration, the objects got their proper history.
- In the newly built, flexible exhibition space, a 360-degree film projection surrounds visitors and objects. Here the visitor meets representatives from Seediq who talk about their culture, history, and future in their own words.
10.2 By highlighting a forgotten cultural heritage and giving Seediq a place to tell their story both at the Ethnographic Museum and digitally, the museum contributes to a more equal society.
11.4 By, in dialogue with the Seediq indigenous people, caring for and storing the objects from their culture that are in the Ethnographic Museum’s collections, the museum contributes to safeguard a cultural heritage.
17.16 We Are Seediq is part of the EU-funded Taking Care project. The exhibition has been created in a global collaboration between the Swedish Museum of World Culture, the Seediq National Assembly in Taiwan, and the Seediq Master’s Program of Providence University in Taiwan.