Fan (Drel or Ral), Pandanus leaves, hibiscus fiber, Marshallese

Fan (Drel or Ral)

late 19th–early 20th century
Republic of the Marshall Islands
Pandanus leaves, hibiscus fiber
H. 16 1/2 in. (41.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of American Friends of the Israel Museum, 1983
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
The consummate skill that Micronesian fiber artists often devoted to creating even the most mundane objects is evident in this remarkable fan from the Marshall Islands. Created by women, Marshallese fans were of two basic types: a simpler form made from coconut leaves and a more ornate variety, of which the present work is an example, made from pandanus leaves and black hibiscus fiber, consisting of a central panel woven around the handle and adorned with a separately made ornamental border.

There is little information on the use and significance of fans in the Marshall Islands. They were reportedly employed primarily in fire making, used to fan the flames or embers of a fire to kindle a lively blaze. However, the ornate nature of many examples strongly suggests that some at least were valued personal accessories used, like fans throughout the world, to cool the body in the tropical heat.
Hiltrup Mission Museum, Hiltrup, Germany, by ca. 1938 until ca. 1971; Thomas Schultze-Westrum, Munich, Germany and London, ca. 1971–1981; John A. Friede, New York, 1981–1983; Martin and Faith-dorian Wright, New York, in 1983; Israel Museum, Jerusalem, through American Friends of the Israel Museum, New York, in 1983

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 166, pp. 278–279.