[End Page vi]
Finely woven and intricately and symbolically patterned mats are a cultural treasure of the Marshallese people. They are the expression of kōrō im an kōl (an attribute bestowed on all Marshallese women at birth) that grants women the opportunity to develop their unique talent and creativity. This form of creative expression is being revived through contemporary jaki-ed (finely woven mat).
Once used for clothing and for cultural, ceremonial, and domestic purposes, jaki-ed have been replaced by mass-produced clothing and furnishings. Marshallese master weaver Tibonieng Samuel recalled making her last clothing mat on Ujae during World War II when commercial ships, unable to enter the Pacific theater, could not deliver cotton fabric. Postwar economic and social factors have perpetuated the loss of traditional knowledge and cultural systems that characterized Marshallese society since the islands were first settled over two thousand years ago. As a consequence, knowledge of the traditional methods of weaving jaki-ed and the cultural meanings of the complex designs was rapidly disappearing.
Since 2006, the University of the South Pacific (usp)-Marshall Islands Campus and traditional leader Maria Kabua-Fowler, with the patronage of Iroij Michael Kabua as well as that of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Hono lulu, have been collaborating on projects and activities to ensure the revival and contemporization of jaki-ed. Basing designs on their own creative vision, weavers now use traditional patterns as inspiration for modern expressions. The usp Jaki-Ed Program enables weavers to learn and share the cultural knowledge and customs associated with the fine mats while also building an exciting and sustainable creative industry. Although jaki-ed are no longer worn as clothing, the mats are now being collected as outstanding examples of cultural creativity.
The art featured in this issue can be viewed in full color in the online version of The Contemporary Pacific via Project MUSE. [End Page vii]