Shifting Values of Plaited Power

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_plaitedpower_10443

    Mat. Borneo, Indonesia, East Kalimantan, c.1950-1970. Rattan palm (calamus caesius) or rotan sega, natural dyes, plaiting. Gift of The Christensen Fund, 2001 (10443.1)

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_plaitedpower_328

    ʻIe toga (fine mat). Samoa, ca. 1900. Pandanus (pandanus tectorius), collared lory (Phigys solitarius) feathers, plaiting. Gift of Miss Wilhelmina Ahrens, 1945 (328.1)

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_plaitedpower_3240_mat_0004

    Jaki-ed or nieded (woman's skirt). Marshall Islands, 19th-20th century. Pandanus (pandanus tectorius), hibiscus (hibiscus tiliaceus), plaiting. Gift of Mrs. C. M. Cooke, 1932 (3240)

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February 19, 2015 - August 09, 2015
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

The museum’s collection of mats from islands throughout the Pacific highlights the region’s skilled weaving traditions—makaloa from Hawai’i, i’e toga from Samoa, a sese mat from Vanuatu, kabae (male dance mat) from Kiribati, jaki-ed from the Marshall Islands, as well as examples from the rainforests of Borneo, Philippines and the Solomon Islands. Mats were often ornamented with patterned, abstract designs, or sometimes adorned with added fringes, feathers, or bits of yarn with distinctive ethnic and regional identifiers, respected and coveted as heirlooms and heritage mats.

These mats’ common denominator is plaiting—they were worked by hand, without a loom and originally made only of natural fibers, such as pandanus (pandanus tectorius), rattan (calameae), and other sedge grasses, referred to as makaloa (cyperus laevigatus) in Hawai‘i. Informally, mats were used to create barriers, to insulate floors and walls, or for sleeping. Officially, they were used for receiving honored guests. Others may have been charged specifically for marking ceremonies and rituals, worn around the hips as body adornment, displayed as a sign of wealth, offered in gift exchanges, conveyed as economic currency, or presented in the investiture of chiefly titles.