Online Media Mata Taiwan Bridges the Gap Between Aborigines and 'Han Chinese'

Online Media Mata Taiwan Bridges the Gap Between Aborigines and 'Han Chinese'
Photo Credit:吳承紘

What you need to know

'Many non-Aborigines see Taiwan as one community that should come together to pursue a mutual goal, but the differences in Aborigine and Han consciousness need to be addressed for us to discuss a future together.'

With President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) making a formal apology to Taiwan’s Aborigines on Monday for 400 years of unfair treatment, it is clear that the people’s voices are gradually being heard and respected. Awareness of Aborigine rights is not only being raised through politics, but also the media. This is where Mata Taiwan steps in.

"Mata" is derived from Proto-Austronesian "maCa," which means "eye(s)." Launched in 2013, Mata Taiwan strives to bring the Aborigine culture to the world and connect different ethnic groups.

However, it wasn’t an Aborigine who founded the online media, but a "Han," Fang Ke-chou (方克舟).

“When Aborigines learn that I’m a ‘bailang’ [白浪, what some Aborigines call Han people], they don’t mind,” Fang told The News Lens. “What they care about is whether or not what I’m doing is what they need and how I deal with the issues.”

Fang’s deep interest in Aborigine cultures, especially the languages, started growing when he was a student. After obtaining a degree in information management and working for three years, he started traveling around the world to places that harbored the Mayan culture, including Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

“I wanted to learn more about the local languages and what the people thought of their language,” says Fang.

Fang had also always been interested in startups, and he visited some non-profit organizations during his travels to see how they operated. He says these experiences “made me realize the kind of life I want to lead.”

Before founding Mata Taiwan, Fang worked in sales at a new media company that focused on technology news, and his experience there had a huge influence on him starting his own company.

“Though it was a small company, I don’t think it was any less influential than traditional media companies,” he says. “The difference wasn’t the amount of capital, but how the company had a lighter burden of the concept of ‘media.’ This also affected how I ran Mata Taiwan, in more experimental ways.”

In 2012, Fang began operations by launching the Facebook page “We Love Taiwanese Aborigines (什麼,你也愛台灣原住民?!)" and sharing articles related to Aborigines on the page. When the number of likes on the page reached about 10,000 in 2013, the website Mata Taiwan went live and Fang quit his job to focus on his media business.

Compared to when he launched the Facebook page in 2012, Fang says media coverage of Aborigines has been growing and more people have become aware of the issues.

“Communication within the group is also important. For example, the main audience for Taiwan Indigenous Television are Aborigines, so they spend a lot of effort working on communication between the tribes,” says Fang. “But I hope Mata Taiwan can bridge the gap between Aborigines and Han people.”

When the site first launched, Fang noticed that existing academic studies and media coverage of Aborigine issues were always focused on a certain community or tribe.

“Taiwan has never lacked research on Aborigines, but these studies haven’t reached more people because they weren’t meant to be read by the general public,” says Fang.

Mata Taiwan therefore focuses on using approachable language to bring topics from policies to history to its readers and to discuss Aboriginal issues from various aspects.

The platform started recruiting volunteers and accepting submissions in 2014. Fang says: “I have always encouraged each tribe to tell their own stories, and fortunately through the help of some friends, many articles with a tribal perspective are usually submitted to Mata Taiwan first.”

Mata Taiwan is also dedicated to Aboriginal language education and launched Kavalan Language Lab (噶瑪蘭族語實驗室) in 2015 to teach a language that less than 30 people in the world still use.

“It’s easier to find learning resources for languages such as Amis, Atayal, and Paiwan, so we will focus on planning language courses for disappearing languages,” says Fang.

“Many non-Aborigines see Taiwan as one community that should come together to pursue a mutual goal, but the differences in Aborigine and Han consciousness need to be addressed for us to discuss a future together.”

The original interview was published in Chinese on The News Lens.


First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Edward White