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Iwan Kainu; One of The Last Atayal Dies at 103

Iwan Kainu; One of The Last Atayal Dies at 103
January 23
14:38 2018

Iwan Kainu; Dies at 103 with tribal face tattoos:

Iwan Kainu was part of the Atayal people, the aborigines of the country of Taiwan. They were known for their very distinct facial tattoos, a tradition which Kainu  also took part in. Throughout her life, because of her heritage and culture, she became a national treasure in Taiwan. Sadly she died a few days ago due to complications during a flu.

Kainu was one of only 6 remaining Atayal people who maintained their traditional face tattoo. A tattoo tradition which is now one step closer, to dying out. But Kainu was part of keeping this cultural tradition and historical treasure, alive for as long as she could.
Despite facial tattooing being banned during the period, when Japan ruled Taiwan.

The Miaoli Country Government, however registered facial tattoos as a cultural asset and treasure. In other words, as something to be protected for cultural purposes. Perhaps partially due to Kainu and other aboriginal women with similar traditions. Indeed Kainu did become quite famous and touched many people’s lives while she was alive. Despite dying at such an old age, we are sure she will be missed by an incredible amount of people.

The Tradition of the Face Tattoo:

The Atayal people all strove to get the honor, of wearing one of their traditional face tattoos. Both men and women alike, saw it as the way to truly be enlisted, into the ranks of adults, and true men and women. Thus, like with many other aboriginal cultures around the world, body-art and especially tattoos, carry/carried great cultural significance.

For women among the Atayal people, the way to earn the right to get the face tattoo. Was to master weaving, showing with the tattoo their transition into womanhood. For the men, the payment was much more brutal. They had to bring the head of an enemy tribesman, which would then earn them the right, to enter real manhood.

Of course these rules may no longer apply, especially the one regarding males. But the tradition and history behind the face tattoo is still significant to this dying culture. It should does be kept safe, so that we may learn from its rich history.

Final Comment:

Iwan Kainu lived a long life. At her age of 103 she was a living proof, of how big a part tattoos have played in cultures, all over the world.
Hopefully this old kind woman and her memory, will help open people’s eyes a little bit more. We hope she will rest in peace knowing she touched us and many more.

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About Author

Mads

Mads

Mads W. K. Masters of science in Sociology (Cand. Scient. Soc.), from the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in embodiment sociology, but especially in tattoos and tattoo culture etc.

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