- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - A woman who has created and carved cultural art for more than 22 years on Tuesday was honored with the title “Sainan Minehalom Manlasgue-Adotnon I Tatåotao,” or Master Carver-Body Ornamentation.

The Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency on Oct. 21 gave Julie “Jill” Quichocho Benavente the title during a surprise ceremony at the Saggan Kotturan Chamorro in Tumon. The title of Guam Master was created under local law to recognize master practitioners who preserve the island’s history and cultural traditions.

Benavente carves fine jewelry from local materials such as giant clam, spondylus, stone, cow bone, wild boar tusks, deer horn and more.

Benavente believed yesterday’s ceremony was being held for the upcoming Festival of the Pacific Arts, which Guam is hosting in 2016.

Holding back tears, she accepted the award and thanked everyone who made it possible.

After the ceremony she said the title is an honor, but it won’t change what she does every day.

“The work still continues, training still continues and my projects still need to be done,” she said.

She said the focus now is to get ready for the festival in 2016.

“It’s not about me. It’s about teaching and making the next generations of artisans. Hopefully, we can start putting Guam on the map with awesome artisans from all walks, and that’s our goal,” she said.

Benavente said it is important for other young Chamorros to find someone to learn from so that the culture can continue to live on.

As a traditional Chamorro jewelry artist, Benavente gradually established herself in the male-dominated art form in the 1990s, according to a biography from CAHA.

She had a difficult time being accepted, which helped her develop her own processes and style as an artist. She started doing basic latte design, the iconic symbols of the Chamorro people, and then gradually designed unique pieces.

Her signature piece is the “Hima Gualafon,” or full moon, necklace worn by many women active in the cultural perpetuation movement.

Her work has been showcased at numerous exhibits and events and she has been a steadfast participant and advocate of Chamorro cultural renaissance.

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Information from: Pacific Daily News: http://www.guampdn.com

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