January 5, 2021
Guam: Preserving Local Communities
The Guam Council on the Arts & Humanities Agency (CAHA), the state arts agency of the territory of Guam, works to preserve the cultural traditions of Guam and enhance the quality of life for Guam residents through programs and initiatives that celebrate local culture. A good example of this is CAHA’s partnership with the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village, located in the southern coastline village of Inarajan.
Listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village preserves ancestral CHamoru art forms and lifestyles while educating visitors about the life of the CHamoru community from the early 20th century. The staff members who demonstrate traditional CHamoru cooking, crafts and arts at the village include many community elders and CAHA master artisans such as Tan Floren Paulino (master weaver), Tun Ignacio Taimanglo (master rope maker) and Tan Rosita San Nicolas (master shrimp trap maker). CAHA provides Gef Pa’go with operational assistance for year-round programs as well as the annual summer camp, where school-age participants and community members are taught traditional skills such as coconut leaf weaving, salt making, rope making and CHamoru dance.
The arts are represented in Inarajan through annual celebrations like the Coconut Festival, feast of St. Joseph the Worker and San Isidro, for which CAHA offers promotional and artistic support. CAHA works closely with the event organizers to promote these festivals and to allow CAHA-affiliated traditional and contemporary artists to showcase their talents and sell their work. This creates visibility and income opportunities for many artists across Guam. CAHA also uses public art projects as a civic engagement strategy and as a focal point for sharing important community stories. The agency has commissioned murals in various locations across the island, including the prominent series titled “We Are Guam.” What sets the “We are Guam” murals apart is that panels are painted on boarded-up windows and doors of abandoned homes, giving new life to distressed buildings and inviting a direct connection between the arts and everyday life in Inarajan. Most recently, to mark the 340th jubilee of the historic St. Joseph Catholic Church and All Souls Day (while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions), the community participated in an outdoor art project displaying 340 colorful umbrellas. Each umbrella featured photographs, paintings, bible verses or other designs developed by family members to commemorate loved ones.
For more information on CAHA’s programs and partnerships, contact CAHA Executive Director Jillette Torre Leon-Guerrero.
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