nothing could prepare me for how sudden tipos, the north wind, arrived, screaming through the betel palms and rattling the steel garage doors and house windows. with the shift in wind, we can go diving only the chance days on which the wind sits, hopefully coinciding with the low tide. otherwise, one might go at low tide to collect shellfish along the intertidal zone. yet even then, the waves can intimidate with their sudden canter and crash along the rocks. if you get pulled by the wave, remember to use your urchin hook to hook yourself to a nearby rock!
because the climate is shifting, we can now have typhoons during the katiposan, the time of the tipos. in the past, the arrival of tipos meant the end of kafaliyosan, the season of typhoons. over the past few days, a supertyphoon has been northeast of us, along okinawa, adding to the swells. a hundred or more yards from the beach, a misty haze pushed up by the winds covers all with salt spray
today i visited the ocean to look at the waves with siki sufin, an artist who was born in ‘atolan and who has lived here much of his life, apart from a ten year stint working construction in taipei. for him, typhoons are a mixed blessing: he cannot gather or go spear fishing because of the waves and murky water, but the typhoons do bring his material down from the mountains or up from the ocean. siki carves entirely in scavenged driftwood. in his recent work, he has been struggling, like other artists–hana kliw and yoki pancome to mind, as does rahic talif–to articulate an indigenous perspective on the ocean. the ‘amis are not seafarers, but they have a complicated relationship to the ocean. several gods and goddesses ruled the ocean, one of them, ciDongi, an ancestor of ‘atolan ‘amis. the ocean also appears in erotic songs and playful allegories. it is the source of much of the food ‘amis gather, but also good to think. at the same time, many ‘amis men actively dive and gather for a cash economy that has contributed to the degradation of shellfish and other marine animal stocks. because siki is an activist, his indigenous perspective on the ocean differs from that of many people around the ‘atolan ‘amis community. this contradiction informs the formation of an indigenous environmentalism that differs from both pan-indigenous environmentalism and its close associate consumer environmentalism, which dominate in taiwanese environmentalist circles.
for siki, the work of articulating a critical indigenous environmentalism resembles ethnographic practice. as in the case of his earlier work on ‘amis men forcibly conscripted to fight in the chinese civil war, his current work on the ocean requires conversations and interviews with senior ‘amis men, with whom siki discusses their perceptions of, and affection for, the ocean. this affection for the ocean might have informed the way men approached their work in the far ocean fishing trade; however, the open ocean was also terrifying. perhaps the ocean in question then, is not the ocean as a geographic expanse, but the interface between human society and the ocean: reefs, creek mouths, and rocky islands, the places where humans exchange with the ocean. and yet, ‘amis mythology nearly always takes the ocean as the place of origin for the people and the rituals that kept human society in order. in this sense, a connection to the ocean might be as important for ‘amis as a connection to the land
a few days ago, siki and i talked about the change in aquatic flora soon to come now that the tipos arrived. today, however, siki is both glad to see a supply of driftwood on the beach but also perplexed: we have already entered the katiposan…why has another typhoon come?
i will follow siki’s work on the ocean as it proceeds. keep a lookout for updates