Palau’s culture is a very important part of their society. Although many of its cities and areas have modernized itself, they never forgot what it means to be Palauan. And like much of the island and coastal societies, the sea is integrated into pretty much everything they create when it comes to their traditional arts.
Many of these arts were centered around functionality. A style of weaving using the leaves of plants such as palm fronds and pandanus was used to create items such as baskets, mats, and bags that they used in everyday life.
Jewelry is not only worn as decoration or because it is pretty, it served a purpose. Many styles of jewelry also indicates a social status in the form of necklaces that serves as money. Some of the materials they use include seashells, turtle shells, wood, and other natural materials.
Although not quite as used today, canoe building was once an important part of Palauan society. There were a couple different types of canoes depending on its purpose, whether it was for war or to transport people from island to island. Although many were constructed plainly, there were some that had designs painted on them.
One type of woodcarving that is popular in Palau is the storyboard carving. These are usually found on the local meetinghouse, otherwise known as the bai. These storyboards tell the myths, folklore, and history of a particular place. In fact, the entire bai is typically painted and covered in decorative designs and storyboards. Many of these bais have fell into disrepair, but some have been preserved quite well.
That pretty much transitions me to Palauan literature. When it comes to the literary traditions in Palau, most of the works from this area are written in either Palauan or in English. In the early days, most stories have been passed down from generation to generally through word of mouth. In many of the villages, after all of the work has been done for the day, the elders would tell folklore stories as entertainment. The storyboards mentioned earlier illustrate these stories.
Poetry has probably been the strongest literary style developed in Palau. However, there aren’t that many examples of published works by Palauan authors for either poetry or prose. One literary blogger whose blog I like reading did manage to get her hands on one book by the Canadian author Susan Kloulechad. Her husband is from Palau, and they lived there for 20 years. However, there are several tourist guides, and GoodReads lists several books that take place in Palau.
Up next: music and dance