Traditional arts were at one time crucial elements of Palauan society. Today these arts are practiced by only few. While some, to satisfy current trends and tastes, have been adapted from their original form. Yet all have their roots in the rich tapestry of Palau's unique and vibrant culture.
Household items, including sleeping mats, baskets and even the sails of long-range outrigger canoes were once woven from coconut palm leaves and the razor-shape pandanus. Adapting to current needs, women now wave bags, backpacks and other useful items decorated with variety of colorful geometric designs.
In the past, the primary form of travel was by canoe as most people lived along the coast. There were canoes for every task and occasion, such as the sleek war canoe on the bulkier kaeb canoe craftsmen exist today, demonstration of this one essential craft can be seen at the Senior Citizens Center in koror.
Chants were used to retell stories of historical and ceremonial events and to parody individuals and situations. Traditionally, to criticize or ridicule someone directly was a very harsh and humiliating action that could lead to further recrimination. Thus , the high people of village would clant a song that was essentially a parody of a person or village allowing people to enjoy the message while learning an important lesson. Today, Chanting is performed on special occasions and in dance performances. Often, while requested, an elder at the Senior Citizen Center will be more than happy to demonstrate or give lessons.
Often, chants were accompanied by dance, which were performed mainly at ceremonies commemorating a day or event. Movements are fluid and unhurried. Even the Palauan cha cha and jitterbug adaptations are performed with characteristic careful movement. Several restaurants feature traditional dance performance, while more modern styles are typically seen on the dance floors at any of Palau's nightclubs.
In order to show social status, women wore udoud money necklaces and turtle shell bracelets. Another delicately carved and shaped turtle shell ornament is a small, shallow dish called toluk. This dish is also regarded as a form of money and was paid to women for their family obligations and services. Primarily using turtle shell and seashells, craftmen carved and shaped their materials into a variety of unique items.
(Note: Items made from turtle shells are banned from entering the US and many other countries.)
Historically, Palau was an oral society. The only exception were the tales carved and painted into the beams and gables of the Bai. Today, visitors may obtain one of these tales engraved and sometimes painted onto a piece of wood called storyboard.