​3rd Workshop in Preparation for the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts

Guam hosted the Festival of the Pacific Arts (FestPac) in 2016, a region-wide festival celebrating the various arts and cultures of the Pacific. As the host of FestPac 2016, Guam chose the kinds of events to highlight, including traditional performances, arts and craft displays and demonstrations, music, dancing and story-telling. Hosting the Pacific wide festival represented an important and exciting opportunity to highlight cultural identity and heritage among a diverse group of Pacific islanders, many of whom share a colonial past and have felt its impact on traditional practices and lifestyles.

In addition to the artists, many others who visited during the course of the festival saw the various performances and demonstrations and learned about the arts and rich traditions of the people of Oceania. Guam artists who participated in FestPac 2016 were encouraged to share their knowledge about history and culture in addition to their creative and artistic expressions in its myriad of forms.

The Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA) spearheaded the organization of FestPac 2016, as well as organized workshops to assist local artists, artisans and other cultural producers to tell the story behind their work.

The first workshop, Cultural Design with History in Mind, was held in February 2013 and focused on finding inspiration in traditional Chamorro designs and motifs evidenced on material culture of the Mariana Islands. The second workshop, Intellectual Property, was presented in August 2013 and provided information about intellectual property rights and protections as they can be applied to artists and other cultural works.

This next series of FestPac workshops entitled, Connect Me | Create Me | Promote Me, offers a more in-depth look at the organization of festival committees and activities, and outlines Guam’s specific efforts to help participants prepare for FestPac Guam 2016. The first workshop of the series, “What is FestPac?” discussed the history of Guam’s involvement in FestPac and the impact the festival has had on Guam’s cultural identity and representation at the festival. The second workshop by the FestPac 2016 Visual Arts Committee featured a presentation of the history of Guam’s visual arts from the 20th century and forward, and included two concurrent breakout sessions featuring panelists of 2D/3D artists and filmmakers.

The third in the series, the CHamoru Seafaring Lexicon Workshop, was held over two days in July 2014. The workshop was a follow up to an earlier 2009 meeting among the Chamorro seafaring community to create a lexicon of terms for various aspects of traditional canoe-building, seafaring and navigation. Presentations included an historical overview of the seafaring tradition in the Marianas and revitalization efforts, and discussions of on-going and new projects among the various Chamorro seafaring organizations.

Day One

Historical Overview

Dr. Lawrence Cunningham, Author and Historian
In this presentation, Dr. Lawrence Cunningham discussed a brief history of Chamorro-Micronesian seafaring traditions and revitalization efforts over the last two decades. Beginning with the movement and settlement of Austronesian peoples in the Pacific region, Cunningham emphasized the unique place the people of the Marianas have in this story as the first people to set out in their canoes and settle these islands. He also used the presentation to pay tribute to many of the people from Micronesia who helped the rest of the Pacific rediscover their seafaring past and traditions. In particular, Manny Sikau from Polowat was instrumental in helping the people of Guam build canoes but also shared his knowledge of navigating by the stars, knowledge passed down to him over seven generations of navigators. With anecdotes and humor, Dr. Cunningham showed how the Chamorro people continue to find ways to perpetuate and promote their seafaring culture with new innovations and participation with the larger Pacific seafaring community.

Our Sakman Story

By Mario Borja, Master Carver, Che’lu, Inc.
This is a story of what one observer, Sir George Anson, the British Commander of the HMS Centurion, witnessed and documented about the Chamorros back in 1742 and which has given our Chamorro history a reprieve for ancestral identity. It is a story about the Chamorros and their “simple” invention of ingenuity, the flying proa, which established a speed record back then and was unmatched for another century. It is a story of a simple scaled drawing presented with such engineering detail unique to the sakman, our Chamorro single outrigger sailing canoe. It is a story of the resolve of a small group of Chamorros to rebuild this sacred vessel of old, fueled solely by very words of this one observer’s account. It is a story that echoes the same account in the very language of our ancestors. It is a story honoring them for this legacy.

Mario Borja e-Publication


Download presentation here.


Day Two

500 Sails Project

By Pete Perez, Che’lu, Inc.
Imagine arriving on Guam by ship and being surrounded by 500 outrigger canoes. That scene of the San Pedro‘s arrival at Guam in 1575 is what has inspired the 500 Sails project, an effort by Che’lu, Inc. of San Diego, Calif. and Peter Perez from Tanapag, Saipan, to create a fleet of 500 canoes for the people of the Marianas. Using the original Anson expedition drawing from 1742 and new technology, the project will construct traditional Chamorro canoes of various sizes from fiberglass and put them in the hands of people who can learn how to build them and share in the knowledge of seafaring and navigation. The project will help to instill cultural pride as well as teach valuable skills and promote a viable boat-building industry. Ultimately, the 500 Sails project will help the children of the Marianas remember who they are as a people with a rich seafaring history.

Pete Perez e-Publication


Download presentation here.

Seafarers Symposium, Fiji

By Sandra Okada, Board Member, Traditions Affirming our Seafaring Ancestry (TASA)
Frank Cruz, President, Traditions About Seafaring Islands (TASI)

Sandra Okada (TASA) and Frank Cruz (TASI) represented Guam in Suva, Fiji at the 2nd International Sustainable Sea Transport in the Pacific Talanoa. The purpose of the talanoa, or gathering, was to “bring together key stakeholders with an interest in heritage, culture, seafaring, science, vessel design, economics, policy, regulation, and industry to celebrate Oceania’s seafaring heritage and progress planning towards a sustainable seafaring future.” The Pacific region, with its many islands separated by miles of ocean, presents a unique situation regarding sea transport issues, concerns and policies. Okada and Cruz attended the conference to talk about children and women in Guam’s seafaring community, but were also able to network with seafarers/voyagers from other Pacific islands to develop new and exciting opportunities. The lexicon workshop participants were reminded of the importance of sustaining our ocean resources as well as the potential of working with others for the betterment of the Pacific region.

Puntan Layak

By Mario Borja, Master Carver, Che’lu, Inc.
In this second presentation for the seafaring lexicon workshop, Mario Borja discussed the points of sail, or puntan layak, the course of a sailboat in relation to the direction of the wind. Using his own personal experiences of sailing canoes in San Diego Borja wanted to share what he had learned about the effect of wind on the layak (sail) and to efficiently harness the force of the wind to move the canoe. An understanding of wind direction, direction of travel and proper trimming of the sail makes for a more enjoyable experience out on the water. He also introduced Chamorro language terms for the different points of sail developed by his organization.

CHamoru Seafaring Lexicon

Editor’s Note: Readers of the summary report and the seafaring lexicon produced by the workshop participants should bear in mind the challenge of putting together a lexicon that adequately captures the various technological and cultural aspects of Chamorro seafaring knowledge and practices. They should be cognizant of the limitations that an endeavor of this magnitude entails, particularly when trying to recapture words lost to history, or expressing concepts that are ambiguous or fluid. Additionally, readers should know that the lexicon produced in this workshop was done in a spirit of collaboration, cooperation, pride and a profound sense of responsibility to “do it right,” but with the understanding that this would be a “living document,” evolving over time to maintain its usefulness to the Chamorro people.


Download Lexicon here.

Read related entry Chamorro Directional Terminology by Dr. Lawrence Cunningham here.

Summary Workshop Report e-Publication

Written and presented by Guampedia.com

Download Summary here.