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Chamorro body ornamentation

Ben “Sinahi” San Nicolas del Rosario is a Chamorro cultural artist who specializes in creating traditional Chamorro ornamental pieces and jewelry.

Among Guam’s visual artists, del Rosario has become known as one of the best creators of the sinahi, meaning “new moon,” a replica of an ancient artifact made of giant clam shell.  He has consistently exhibited exceptional skill in shaping, polishing, and then drilling through each end of this dense, brittle material without breaking or chipping it in the process.

del Rosario was one of the pioneers of re-creating this Chamorro valuable, beginning with the renaissance of Chamorro traditional cultural expression through the visual arts in the early 1990s.  He earned the name “Sinahi” through his efforts and continues to explore the icons and materials used by his ancestors, producing exquisitely-designed body ornamentation.  His media includes Tridacna gigas (giant clam) shell, Spondylus (oyster) shell, bone, wood and local fibers such as wild hibiscus bark.

del Rosario is from the village of Malojloj, Inalahan, in southern Guam, and is a member of  familian “Amaska” Mantanona and Chargualaf and familian “Buchi” – Taimanglo and San Nicolas.  He graduated from George Washington High School in 1977 and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1982.  He is self-employed, busily creating one-of-a-kind body ornamentation for personal clients.  He has sold and displayed his works at many local art venues and fairs and opened his own shop “Newmoon Creations” at the Chamorro Village in July 2011.  He states that, “The perpetuation of the legacy of our Chamorro ancestors is my motivation in creating three-dimensional Chamorro body ornamentation.”

del Rosario is often called upon to exhibit and talk about his art at schools and community events.  He has been featured in local lifestyle publications including a feature story and cover photo on Leap Company’s Island Time Magazine.  He was a member of the Guam artist’s delegation to the Festival of Pacific Arts (FestPac) held in American Samoa in 2008 and in Palau in 2004, where he demonstrated his carving skills in the company of artists from 27 other island nations.

He is a registered artist with the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA).  He has also been featured in local television spots that encourage the cleanup of Guam’s beaches and promote our island’s natural beauty.

By Judy Flores, PhD

For further reading

CAHA Artists Directory. (Accessed 15 June 2012)