“They knew me as the ‘Strong Woman’.”
Ipay Harong is 98 years old. She is a member of the Truku people of Taiwan. At the age of 92 she began to exhibit signs of Parkinson’s disease, which has since worsened, and she is now unable to communicate except for physical gestures.
During our visit, she would periodically attempt to make both eye contact and physical contact. Our interview was conducted with her daughter, who now takes care of her in their house in Hualien County.
Ipay Harong’s tattoo was started when she was 15 years old, but could not be completed as it was illegal to tattoo the face under Japanese colonial rule. Atayal women would usually have a rainbow shaped family-specific pattern tattooed around their mouths, but she was unable to complete it. During the Japanese colonial rule, she was educated in Japanese language. Until her disease took hold, she was fluent in Japanese, Atayal, and Mandarin. She was known amongst her peers as the “strong woman” because she was able to carry 60kg of vegetables on her back up and down the mountainside.
She hopes that the world will know her tribe as one brimming with the culture of hunting, weaving, and facial tattoos.