Jacob and Gloriana Teuira have been weaving mwarmwars and other traditional headgears for the past six years. Now they want to share their knowledge and skill in weaving head wreaths as a way to preserve Pacific Islander culture.
The husband-and-wife team held a demonstration last Monday as one of the outreach activities done in the opening of the Project PROA—Promote Retention Opportunities Advancement—Center at the Northern Marianas College. Traditional dances will be shown on Friday at the NMC cafeteria.
Jacob is Tahitian who married Gloriana, a Carolinian that works at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs. DCCA is one of the partners of the NMC Project PROA Center. Project PROA aims to further promote and nurture the indigenous culture to the youth.
Dignitaries and other important people wear mwarmwars or head wreaths during important occasions. Mwarmwars are usually made of flowers and other colorful leaves.
“My husband is from Tahiti and their head wreaths are made with tili leaves, which is the traditional kind, while they also use pandanus leaves. The Carolinian kind is mostly made up of colorful flowers,” added Gloriana.
Flowers, other types of leaves, vines, and plant fiber are additional materials used by Polynesians and other Pacific Islanders in making head wreaths. In the CNMI, plumeria and the leaves of plants from the money tree family—with brown, green, and yellow colors—are the some of the most commonly used materials.
“We don’t use flowers that still has some liquid coming out from it. If we do, then we have to wash and clean it first before using it as one of our materials,” said Gloriana, who added that they sometimes measure the head of the person to determine the circumference of the mwarmwar.
“But there are some who they say have the international size, which is not too big or not to small. We also use biodegradable pieces where we are going to put the flowers and leaves. It is a lovely site mixing different colors in a pattern,” she said.
Gloriana said that the usual way of making the mwarmwar is to tie it around a biodegradable rope or braid it like the how the Tahitians do their head wreaths, which is faster and easier.
“Usually, it takes me 20 to 30 minutes to finish Carolinian mwarmwars, but the Tahitian way of braiding the flowers takes only 10 minutes.”
She added that one way of prolonging the head wreaths, either made of flowers or leaves, is to wrap wet paper around it and put it inside the refrigerator. The local kind of plumeria also lasts two to three days while the Hawaiian kind is much faster to wilt.
“If I use hibiscus, I make it a point to use the flowers that are not yet in full bloom because as the day goes on it would bloom and the mwarmwar really looks nice,” said Gloriana.