The University of the South Pacific campus at Long Island continues to evolve into a showcase university facility. The newest addition is a weaving house, designed with encouragement, guidance and technical advice from Irooj Michael Kabua and constructed by workers from Namu. Kabua cut the ribbon Monday morning, officially opening the weaving house and kicking off a three-week workshop for 15 weavers. Opening remarks were made by Kabua, guest artist and researcher Ruha Fifita, poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and USP President Dr. Irene Taafaki. The weaving house and workshop is sponsored by a grant from the Oceanic Women’s Fund that is overseen by the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Fifita, a research assistant for QAGOMA, is an artist from Tonga. She told the weavers: “What you are doing has great admiration around the world.” Taafaki credited Maria Fowler for the vision and inspiration behind the project and thanked Kabua for his assistance. As to why USP has a weaving house, Taafaki explained, “A university really serves no purpose unless it is for the betterment of the whole community.” Susan Jieta, an award-winning weaver, is one of the 15 weavers who will participate in the workshop. She explained that each weaver determines her own design and size for her mat. Normally a mat takes a month or more to create, so she says three weeks will be a push but they (the weavers) will all try their best to make it happen. The finished mats will go to QAGOMA where the best will be displayed in a special exhibition in November of 2018. World renown poet Jetnil-Kijiner will be at the event sharing poetry she is currently creating about jaki-ed weaving.
Read more about this in the September 8, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.