Girl meets boy: Taiwan’s tribal matchmaking festival

This picture taken on August 19, 2017 shows members of the Amis indigenous group posing for a selfie during the traditional harvest festival in Hualien, eastern Taiwan. As night falls on a square in the village of Matai'an, young women cast critical eyes over a dancing circle of men in embroidered skirts and feathered head dresses as part of an ancient match-making ritual. Known as "Lovers' Night", it is the grand finale of the annual harvest festival for the Amis tribe, the largest of the 16 recognised indigenous groups in Taiwan. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2017

Girl meets boy: Taiwan’s tribal matchmaking festival

HUALIEN, Taiwan: As night falls on a square in the village of Matai’an, young women cast critical eyes over a dancing circle of men in embroidered skirts and feathered head dresses as part of an ancient match-making ritual.
Known as “Lovers’ Night,” it is the grand finale of the annual harvest festival in the settlement which belongs to the Amis tribe, the largest of the 16 recognized indigenous groups in Taiwan.
Near the island’s rugged east coast, the village — also known as Fata’an, the name of a local plant, in the Amis language — is a collection of basic, low-lying houses along meandering streets, located in a valley between two mountain ranges.
The harvest festival — which usually runs between June and August, with each village holding it at a different time — is the biggest and most important celebration for the Amis tribe, and in Matai’an it culminates with single women taking their pick of eligible bachelors.
The centuries-old custom is a reflection of the tribe’s matriarchal system, which sees women make key decisions including managing finances and men marry into their wives’ families.
As the singing and dancing men pick up their pace, the women move in behind their chosen love interest and tug on a multicolored cloth bag slung on their target’s shoulder.
To spark interest, the men wiggle and flex their muscles, the most popular among them accruing a queue of interested women.
If a man reciprocates the approach, he will give his bag — known as an “alufu” — to the woman, marking the beginning of a courtship.
In the past, the ritual would commonly lead to marriage and even now still sparks relationships, but it is also a chance for Amis community members who are working in the cities to return and socialize.
“Lovers’ Night is to make friends,” said Cheng Ying-hsuan, 22.
Dressed in a red traditional outfit adorned with green beads and her own sequined alufu, she had returned to the village from the city of Hualien, where she now lives, an hour’s drive away.
When asked if she hoped to find a boyfriend, she laughed and said coyly: “That’s also a possibility.”
Matai’an is one of the biggest Amis settlements and is home to around 500 people — mostly elders and children.
“We like the feeling of everyone coming back together and reconnecting. For us this is the most important,” said Liao Ching-tung, 28, who lives in the capital Taipei.
Each harvest festival, hundreds who have moved away to work or study return to join in the festivities.
The indigenous community — which remains a marginalizedgroup in Taiwanese society — has seen its traditional culture eroded since immigrants started arriving from China centuries ago.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016, her government has been pushing for greater indigenous rights and preservation of tribal languages and culture.
But some groups have criticized Tsai for not going far enough and have clashed with authorities over land rights policy, demanding their ancestral areas be returned.
In Matai’an, tradition is alive and kicking.
Lamen Panay, 41, who goes by her tribal name, says the matchmaking event is still meaningful to her even though she is no longer single.
She has a collection of lovers’ bags from past harvest festivals, but has since settled down with her long-term boyfriend, living with him in Taipei.
The couple are both from the village and Lamen still makes a point of picking him out during the matchmaking ritual.
“We are both usually very busy with work,” she said.
“It’s necessary to rekindle the flames.”


Egyptian star Tamer Hosny breaks Guinness World Record in Abu Dhabi

Tamer Hosny broke the Guinness World Record for the most contributions to a bulletin board. AFP
Updated 07 December 2019

Egyptian star Tamer Hosny breaks Guinness World Record in Abu Dhabi

  • At an event in the UAE, Egyptian star Tamer Hosny broke the Guinness World Record for the most contributions to a bulletin board
  • The bulletin board was placed in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall for fans to leave appreciation notes for the artist and was accessible for four days

DUBAI: Egyptian singer and actor Tamer Hosny broke the Guinness World Record for the most contributions to a bulletin board at an event held in the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Marina Mall on Friday. 

“The record to break was 4,900 contributions. Today you achieved 12,086 contributions,” a representative from the organization announced on stage.

“When I was nominated for a Guinness World Record, I was honestly very worried with the title. I withdrew from two previous nominations… With time, and with the persistency of the offer, I felt that something was calling for it,” Hosny told Arab News. 

The bulletin board was placed in Marina Mall for fans to leave appreciation notes for the artist and was accessible for four days.

“To enter the Guinness World Record, you have to go to a country that is not yours… and your fans have to come from all over the world, which is not easy,” Hosny said. “This required a lot of confidence in my fans for them to come from different continents in just four days.

“I used to see comments on social media, but what I saw written on the cards was not like anything I have ever seen before,” Hosny told Arab News. 

Hosny previously earned a Guinness World Record for organizing the biggest blood donation campaign in history, “Pulse of Life.”

“Around three years ago, I led a campaign to serve the Egyptian people… Egypt won the record, not me,” he said.

Dubbed the “King of the Generation” by his fans, Hosny is also a songwriter, a composer and a producer. Before he won, Hosny took to the stage to perform a song he composed in honor of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance. 

The live performance also featured young artists that appeared on the Arabic TV show “The Voice Kids: Ahla Sawt."