GRANT #446:

Revitalizing Indigenous Art

Email Your Senator? No, These Young People Weave Their Political Messages Into Mats.

You’ve heard of Fiji. But if you know the neighboring island country of Vanuatu, it’s probably because a season of the popular television show “Survivor” took place there. There’s a reason! On many of the islands, survival depends on knowledge of the land and sea.

Dozens of indigenous villages are still growing small crops, building their homes using traditional materials, depending on generations of traditional indigenous knowledge for their medicines and health.

But the lure of development beckons. The government hopes for benefits in promoting cash crops seen by many to be less healthy for the environment and consumption. Young people who cherish their indigenous heritage are telling government leaders to stop threatening the rainforest. Using the skills of their traditional female ancestors, they weave pro-environment messages into Pandanus leaf mats. These mats, a hallmark of matriarchal craft, can be used as a peace offering. They’re also a means of solving local disputes. These traditional “message mats”, delivered to government decision makers, might help open a conversation. There’s hope that remote communities can join policy dialogues in a way that is culturally sensitive and respectful.
When the ancient-tradition mats have reached their intended recipients, the young people can make their case to the Prime Minister in a thoroughly modern Zoom.

Our Awesome grant to the Santo Sunset Environment Group will help buy cutting tools, dyes, and other items that must be imported to the tropical paradise. That’s what it takes to get (sorry) a mat made in heaven!