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Tao Coconut Palm Bark Vest

Tags: aborigine | clothing | Tao | Yami

This vest, made from coconut palm bark, is called Asot Apis No Anyoi in the language of the Yami (Tao) tribe. It is worn by the males of the tribe when going out on visits, working in the fields or fishing at sea. It is comprised of the outer part of the Manila hemp plant and coconut palm bark. The wearer puts it on over his head and then pushes his arms through the openings.

There are a number of steps involved in producing such a vest:

1. Two to three layers of Manila hemp are soaked in water and laid out on the floor of the working house. Then, a layer of coconut palm bark is added. The layers are aligned. Then, three bamboo tubes are cut symmetrically and the pieces are placed on the Manila hemp and coconut palm bark layers. These are used to hold down the upper, middle and lower layers. The bamboo pieces are tied at the ends to keep the layers level.

2. Old fishing line is used to roughly stitch the Manila hemp and coconut palm bark layers together. Then, charcoal is used to draw the outline. The size is determined by the neck diameter, width between the shoulders, size of the chest and the length of the clothing of the wearer. The vest is usually shorter than the shirt and should rest near the navel. Finally, a knife is used to cut out the outline.

3. The pieces are sown together using thin pieces of rattan palm and Manila hemp. The bottom requires coarser rattan palm pieces to help keep its shape when worn or stored.

4. Usually Manila hemp is used to form the stitches and the plain stitch method is the most common. The more sophisticated vests feature two to three lines of horizontal wave patterns embroidered on the back and along the margins. After World War II, patterns such as human figures began to appear on the back of these vests. Such patterns were previously considered taboo.

5. Finally, the outline is folded into a symmetrical, circular cage-like shape. " Manila hemp is used to make shoulder straps and front ties. On the front part, flat buttons or loops are added and hemp twine is used to tie the two sides of the vest together. A piece of twine is added to the back of the collar, which is used for hanging up the vest when not in use.

On Orchid Island there is an abundance of Manila hemp and rattan palm. In earlier times, these plant materials were used to make clothing or rope for fishing boats, as they are highly durable in nature.

However, processing the Manila hemp was quite complicated. It was necessary to first chop down the hemp plant and then to remove the branches and leaves leaving the stalk. Then, the outer part was removed. The inner fibers were obtained and wrapped around a tree trunk and rubbed back and forth to eliminate the water content and to soften the fibers. The fibers were then tied in a bundle and taken home to be dried in the sun.

This vest measures approximately 44 centimeters in length and 39 centimeters in width. It has two hemp rope ties on the front for binding the two sides of the vest together.


Department of Graphic Communications and Digital Publishing, Shih Hsin University Digital archiving project of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines