The art work before you represents almost all that is Chamorro. The pieces represent ancient Chamorro jewelry, tool, money, and weapon. I will briefly describe the significance of each piece. The first piece is the Hima (Tridacna Gigas Shell) Sinahi that is resting right below the Higam and directly in front of you.
Sinahi is a crescent shaped necklace that is highly valued today and in the ancient Chamorro period. The Sinahi before you was carved from an authentic material (tridacna gigas, giant clam). It is based on ancient Sinahi artifacts that have been found in ancient Chamorro burial sites. The high cast Chamorro/Maga’Lahi wore such necklace. It was a sign of social status if you will.
The Higam Hima (Adze) before you was carved from the tridacna shell and lashed to a wooden body using coconut fiber rope. Adzes can also be made from stone. “They were used to shape pieces of wood for houses and to carve out canoes. Some very large adzes may have been used to shape limestone for the latte pillar. Adzes were also used to smooth logs for flooring, which was sometimes made of bamboo” (Farrel, 1991).
On the top side of the adze is a circular orange colored disc. This is a replicated spondylus money bead. The Spondylus Salape’ was a form of currency. It is an orange or red spiny mollusk. “Early accounts mention waistband of shell money” (Cunningham, 1992). For example, an early contact period burial excavated at the Hafa Adai Beach Hotel site here on the island of Sa’ipan revealed a female with a belt encircling her lower waist made of large Spondylus disks. Going down from the money bead are rolls of spondylus beads that were used as ornaments in ancient Chamorro society. It was also strung as necklaces and was probably strung as beads with the Sinahi necklace.
The fourth piece is the Acho’ Atupat. Acho’ Atupat is the slingstone while the Atupat or Diyuk Patu is the sling connected to the pouch. You can see this replicated work right in front and almost directly below the Higam Hima. Although I called it Acho’ (stone) this particular replicated slingstone was carved from the tridacna shell. The sling and/or pouch were braided together using coconut fiber rope. To further illustrate, “Slings were made from fiber. The sling had two long strings with a pouch in the middle to hold the slingstone. The slingstone was made from baked clay, just like pottery, or shaped from stone-basalt, limestone, or marble. Slingstones looked something like miniature footballs. The Chamorro would sling the stone around and around and then let go of one end of the sling. The stone would then be flung from the sling like a bullet. It was said that heavy stones, made from very hard rock, could be thrown so forcefully they could penetrate a coconut tree or a person’s body. If a person was hit in the head by a slingstone it could fracture the skull. Several reports indicated that the Chamorros were very accurate with slingstones and could throw them long distances” (Farrel, 1991).
Lastly, the natural aesthetics of the wood binds all the art pieces together in that it represents what my ancestors would have used as a natural resource for building the post of the Guma Higai (woven palm fronds) among other things.
Gordon "FIGO" Salas