Sometimes during my life as an anthropologist I am overwhelmed by incredible events; things that seem to come out of books or dreams. Last week in the small town of Atolan on the beautiful east coast of Taiwan I watched as a whole pig, spreadeagled, was slowly turned on a huge grid-shaped spit over roaring flames.


Amis tribal members preparing pork for a special lunch to bring home the spirits of lost WWII warriors.

Siki Sufin, a sculptor of the Amis tribe, has been dreaming of the restless spirits of Amis warriors: men who were conscripted by the Japanese military to fight in the second world war. Many of these men, who fought in New Guinea, the Philippines, and other islands of the Pacific Theater, never returned. You remember those stories of old Japanese soldiers who hid for 30 years in the jungle only to emerge in the 1970s? One man, Attun Paladin (Teruo Nakamura was his Japanese name) was an Amis tribal soldier.


Attun Palalin, also known as Suniuo or Teruo Nakamura, an Amis soldier who held out on the tiny island of Morotai for decades. Garlanded with flowers upon his return to Taiwan in the mid-1970s. Photo credit to the Taipei Times, available in the public domain.

This sculpture by Mr. Sufin invokes the spirits of Amis warriors to fly back home to Taiwan and be at rest.


A fabulous chainsaw sculpture by Amis artist Siki Sufin shows wings raised in flight for returning soldiers’ spirits. This is a cast: the original was dedicated in New Guinea.

To tempt their appetites, Siki sponsored a lively pig roast and sing at the community center. The aroma of roast pork rose into the pearly grey sky along with voices raised in complex woven songs. My eyes burned from the beauty of the songs and the fumes of millet liquor that was continually pressed into my hands…