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  • About the Artists:The Jaki-Ed Collective
  • Dr Irene Taafaki, Director

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Above: Detail of a jaki-ed (fine mat) by Patsy Hermon. 2012.
Below, left to right: Terse Timothy, Susan Jieta, Patsy Hermon, and Ashken Binat are expert weavers involved with a program aimed at reviving the art of jaki-ed and training young weavers at the University of the South Pacific (usp) Marshall Islands. The initiative has resulted in revitalization of jaki-ed as well as contemporary interpretations of the customary techniques. Photos by K Earnshaw (Terse Timothy) and T Greenstone Alefaio.

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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Once used for clothing and for cultural, ceremonial, and domestic purposes, jaki-ed have been replaced by mass-produced clothing and furnishings.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.

Dr Irene Taafaki, Director
USP Marshall Islands Campus


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]

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Jaki-ed (fine mat) by Terse Timothy. 2010.
Maan¯ (pandanus leaves), dye, string.
36 x 30 inches. Photo by K Earnshaw.
Terse Timothy is from Aelōn¯ļapļap Atoll and Mōjeej Island. She grew up watching her mother weave jaki-ed and continues to weave in this style because it connects her to her ancestors.

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Above left, Susan Jieta weaves the kemejmej (design); above right, detail of the kemejmej; and below, she braids the in¯in¯ of the jaki-ed (intertwined border of the fine mat). Photos by T Greenstone Alefaio.
Susan Jieta is from Mōjeej Island. While in her twenties, Susan began weaving with a local women's group, and in 2007 she was introduced to the intricacies of jaki-ed through the USP program. She weaves the kemejmej that traditionally referred to the complexities of land tenure and hierarchal relationships to tell stories of culture, environment, and natural and unnatural occurrences. The in¯in¯ is braided to symbolize the interdependent relationship between one's father's and mother's lineages.

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Jaki-ed (fine mat) by Susan Jieta. 2012.
Maan¯ (pandanus leaves), dye, string. 36 x 36 inches. Collection of Natalie Nimmer. Photos by K Higgins.
Susan Jieta endeavors to create elaborate designs in her jaki-ed. In this one Susan has combined the motif of "the star of the eye" (a cross in the center of a diamond) with the underbelly of a turtle (stylized rhombus repetition). This is...


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