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Machi
Machi
Chief`s Mantle (2008)

  • Dyed and woven by Paulina Elehig
  • Fais Island, Micronesia
  • Supplementary weft patterning
  • Banana and hibiscus fiber
  • 70 cm x 232 cm (28 in x 91 in)
  • Code # T02.CO.DR.001

A young Fais weaver shows off her handiwork.
For centuries the low, lonely island of Fais, some 1600 kilometers east of the Philippines, has produced one of the most valuable commodities in the Yap region of Micronesia, equal in value to a man’s life. The high value stored in lightweight, easily transportable Fais machi textiles made long-distance trade feasible, and enabled the long-distance routes that linked together these remote islands in the western Pacific.

Machi are woven on backstrap looms, a technology that arrived from mainland Southeast Asia sometime in the last thousand years. But cotton does not grow on Fais, and the islanders have developed alternative fibers. Machi textiles are woven from a fine thread extracted from the trunks of banana palms, and decorated with fibers of brown bark stripped from a local variety of hibiscus.

In the past, machi granted symbolic authority to the chiefs of Fais, linking them to the ancestors and spirits of the island. Today, machi are used as funeral shrouds, or are given as gifts, expressing a deep, rare love or friendship.