Unique handicrafts from Marshall Islands

Elefa Handicraft Shop is a home-grown family business based in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Northern Pacific Ocean. Elefa Handicrafts proudly promotes the matrilineal culture and cultural objects created by women in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands have a growing reputation for being fine artisan weavers of the most intricate objects in the Pacific Region. Woven objects that are instantly recognisable amongst the myriad of Pacific woven objects, the Marshall Islands weaver produces the highest quality handicrafts made from totally natural materials sourced from their 24 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets.

Elefa Handicraft products are sourced from a select group of exceptional weavers who proudly maintain cultural connections to their island-based family networks. The impact of climate change on the low-lying atolls of the Marshall Islands poses a large risk to the livelihood of the weavers and their trade.

Elefa Handicraft products are usually constructed from the fibres gleaned from the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera), the pandanus tree (Pandanus sp.) and at various times of the year, local vegetation that is found in abundance throughout the atolls that make up the Republic of the Marshall Islands. A wide variety of commonly found cowrie shells are collected from the shoreline of the pristine marine environment by remote island communities and play an integral part in the beautification or embellishment of the woven objects. Once the preparation of the weaving material is complete, the artisan starts to weave the coconut fibre, interwoven with pandanus fibre, if needed, completes the creation process with sea shells, to create a beautiful object.

There is no blueprint or planned design involved to create an object; the weaver uses her imagination, knowledge of weaving techniques passed on from previous generations and listens to her heart to complete a work of art.

Each piece is uniquely individual – the essence of being hand made.

If you are looking for authentic handicrafts to add a little Marshallese culture to your life, Elefa has the handicrafts for you!

There is little anthropological documentation on the genesis of Marshallese weaving however during the 1850’s German ships arrived in the area with the German Declaration in 1885 that claimed the Marshalls as a German Protectorate. For 29 years coconut plantations and copra facilities flourished. In 1914, the Japanese took control of the Marshall Islands and Atolls.

Marshallese weavers call their hand-woven objects Amimono. Amimono is the Japanese word for knitting. The popular white, finely woven “Kili” bag was originally made on Kili Island by Bikini Islanders who relocated to Kili during the 1950’s. The kili bag was made famous after Jackie Onassis Kennedy recieved one as a gift from Marshall Islands’ first

President while visiting.

For more information email Ian Furlong on ian.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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