Marshallese weavers of jaki-ed (clothing mats) will be showing their fine art around the world next year, with a demonstration being held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC and a display of the mats at Australia’s Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.
These exciting events were announced by long-time friend of the Marshall Islands, MaryLou Foley, at the 11th Annual Jaki-ed Exhibit and Silent Auction held Wednesday at the Marshall Islands Resort’s Melele Room.
MaryLou emceed the well-attended event, which saw prize money, bids and sales totaling $5,106, all of which goes to the participating women. This brings the amount earned by weavers since the first auction to $89,053.50.
“The first successful exhibition and silent auction was launched 11 years ago, and the partners have stayed together throughout: Maria Kabua Fowler, University of the South Pacific, Marshall Islands Visitors Authority, Marshall Islands Handicraft Association, and the Marshall Islands Resort,” MaryLou said. She also noted the continuing support of Honolulu’s Bishop Museum, which allowed MaryLou to bring two historic mats for display at the exhibit.
The day started at 10am with the judging of the mats by Althea Bing, Thelma Murphy, MaryLou, Mona Levy-Strauss, and Jennifer Hawley and was followed by school visits and public viewings. Students were especially interested to see two identical small jaki-ed that were over 100 years old. The jaki-ed are part of the Bishop Museum archived collection and were obviously worn by a young Marshallese woman in the past.
The nail-biting part of evening, the auction, began at 7:45pm with guests circumnavigating the room to add their bids to the sheet below each mat. At 8:45pm sharp, the bidding was closed, with relief on many of the bidders’ faces.
Meanwhile, at two tables at the back of the room, the weavers were eagerly awaiting the news from the judges. At last it was their moment, with first place and the prize of $1,000 going to Jusinta Jieta of Ailinglaplap, second place and $600 going to Mela Kattil of Arno, and third place and $400 going to Elisana Motdrik Paul of Alinglaplap. Neither the first or third place winners were here.
Susan Jieta of Mejit, Moje Kelen of Jaluit, and Banitha Jesse of Namu were given honorable mentions and $100 each for their beautiful jaki-ed.
The ‘rediscovering’ of the making of traditional clothing mats has been championed over the years by Maria Kabua Fowler and Dr. Irene Taafaki, Director of USP’s Majuro campus.
“This year’s event was marked again by strong community support from our sponsors and from those who value this unique cultural art,” said Taafaki.
Read more about this in the December 15, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.