Kosrae Micronesia, Culture and History

Handicraft

Kosrae was originally populated by people sailing ocean going canoes from other parts of the Pacific. By the time the first Europeans landed on Kosrae in 1824, the descendants of these early settlers had evolved a complex feudal society.

The King and royal court lived in Lelu, a small island connected to the main island by a hand made causeway. Lelu was primarily man-made and surrounded by high walls built from volcanic basalt. Today the remnants of these walls are one of the archaeological wonders of the Pacific.

The Kosraean people were well known for the quality of the fabric they wove from banana fiber. Today many excellent weavers carry on this tradition, weaving hats, mats, bags, baskets and wall hangings from pandanus, coconut, hibiscus and other fibers. There is also interest in restoring the ancient banana firber weaving.



Lelu Church

New traditions evolved over time. New England missionaries arrived on Kosrae (via Hawaii) in 1852 and over a period of years successfully converted the majority of Kosraeans to Christianity. Now, Kosrae is one of the most devout and conservative of the Micronesian islands. Kosrae is famous for the choral singing which developed as an off shoot of the Christian conversion.

Today these devout and peaceful people continue their daily lives in much the same manner as their ancestors. Many people continue to prepare food, build houses, farm, fish and carve canoes and other tools as they have for hundreds of years.

Kosraean culture is modern, alive and dynamic - but traditional skills are treasured and passed to younger generations.


Here are a few photos of skilled practitioners engaged in their art.


Basalt Tok Making Fafa

The tok, made of basalt rock, is the extremely heavy pounder used for making fafa from soft taro, or kutak as it known locally. Here Lonno Joe, one of the highly trained fafa makers, is preparing the traditional treat.





Weavers Weavers Weavers

Deckla Abraham, Litakua Paul and Kenye Kephas are among Kosrae's famous weavers.



Kosraean Carver

Austin Jonas, a noted wood worker, is polishing a wooden model of the tok, the basalt fafa pounder at the top of the page.


Making a Traditional Outrigger Canoe

If you are interested in more information on ancient Kosrae click here

Another source of detailed information is The Sleeping Lady Awakens by Harvey Segal.
This book is no longer in print, but can be found in some libraries and occasionally used.