Luciana Martins, Director, Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies,Birkbeck College, London
The completion in September of a four-year AHRC-funded research project into Andean textiles, Weaving Communities, creates a unique and innovative resource for archaeologists, anthropologists, museum curators, contemporary weavers and the fashion industry. Until now, researchers have had to rely on textile samples in museums to develop their studies, requiring expensive travel to museums spread across the world. This research involves very detailed analysis of weaving techniques and structures which are often difficult to visualise due to their complexity and fragility. Drawing on innovative methodologies, the multidisciplinary and international project based at Birkbeck, University of London, combined work in museum collections and fieldwork, digital documentation and information visualization, and an ontological modelling of the data. The resulting knowledge base system provides a common yet simple technical language oriented towards understanding the structures and techniques of Andean textiles from a weaver’s point of view.
A note about the project, on the online publication Hand/Eye, can be found here
From the Pacific Islands Report:
The museum is an imaginary place designed to showcase the historic and contemporary mats of the Marshalls. In this wondrous world, you can ’stroll’ through rooms full of historic mats in Britain or Germany, relax in the cinema as you watch a ‘Majuro Productions’ show, or go shopping in the museum store. The museum, found at www.clothingmatsofthemarshalls.com, is the result of many years of work that had its beginnings in 2004 when Maria Fowler, the daughter of Iroij and President Amata Kabua, was in Hawaii with her daughter.
“I met with my old friend MaryLou Foley and she took me to the Bishop Museum. It was my first time there and MaryLou introduced me to Betty Kam, who took us to the back of the museum to see the mats,” Maria said. ”That’s when I saw the historic jaki-ed for the first time. I nearly cried. There were over 10 mats and while I was looking at them and seeing how beautiful they were, I thought to myself that we really need to revive this skill.”
Maria went to back to Majuro full of ideas. At the time she was working with the Director of the University of the South Pacific’s Majuro campus, Dr. Irene Taafaki on compiling a book of traditional Marshallese medicine (Traditional Medicine of the Marshall Islands: The Women, the Plants, the Treatments by Irene J. Taafaki, Maria Kabua Fowler , and Randolph R. Thaman, IPS Publications). The pair began to think of how they may revive the art of weaving the jaki-ed. But first Maria knew they were going to need someone to be a patron of a project of this nature. “It so happened that Iroij Michael, my uncle, is really into reviving the culture. We went to see him and he said: ‘It’s about time that someone is interested in the culture!’” [...]
From that humble beginning, Maria and Irene went on to hold weaving workshops and also an exhibition and auction of jaki-ed, now held every year at the Marshall Islands Resort to coincide with Culture Day. In recent years there have been apprenticeships around the country in which many dozens of young women have learned how to make the finely-woven clothing mats. These trainings were sponsored by the RMI National Training Council, while the Australian Government has supported the creation of the virtual museum. With the help of these and many other organizations and individuals, the art of making jaki-ed has been revived and you can see the old and the new in the Marshall’s new museum.