Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reviving a lost art

Pottery is a traditional skill practiced by Palauans in the early 1970s but has become a lost art. Potsherds (broken pieces of pottery) found all over Babeldaob and other parts of the island show that early Palauans utilized resources they found in the island to make pottery for their own use like jars, cooking pots, plates, lamps and other functional pottery used all over Palau. The women used to make pottery using the coiling method and open pit fire. Ethnographic records show that the raw clay of Palau is ideal for pottery making. Archaelogist Jolie Liston believes that 90 percent of Babeldaob is covered with potsherds

To revive an interest in this lost art which could be an avenue to uplift the economic status of the talented artists, the Belau National Museum in joint cooperation with the Olechotel Belau Fair 2006 organizing committee conducted a two-day Palau pottery exhibit which drew in a fair share of both local and foreign visitors at the Koror State assembly hall.
The exhibit was highlighted by the pottery-making demonstration by Aui, a Maori potter taught Frieda Erungel, Palau’s talented potter how to use the coiling method in making pottery. Koror, Airai and Ngardmau States showcased local and exported pottery and vessels during the exhibit.

Committee organizing chairperson Meked Besebes said that a ceramic class was held for students at the Palau High School from 1970 to 1977 but this was stopped after the instructor, Sandy Vitarelli left the island for good. Vitarrelli used to teach pottery making using Palau clay and the students sold their work, receiving half of the proceeds for themselves. Besebes said there was a pottery factory in Kles, Ngersuul in Ngchesar state in the early 1970s owned by David Vitarelli and Eldebechel family but it closed down.
BNM would like to extend thanks to Sandy Vitarelli, Margo Vitarelli, Frieda Erungel, Umai Basilius, Jolie Liston, Rita Olsudong, Rischel Haynie, BNM staff, SWEP and volunteers, Koror State Government, Airai State and Ngardmau State government for their invaluable contributions which made the exhibit possible, and to the School of the Pacific Island, Janns Foundation for funding assistance.

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