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#14 Have a professional

2020 . 04 . 06

Women in my second hometown, Ha’apai, spend time for weaving mats of pandas every day.
Living with handicrafts with natural material is a source of spiritual richness, as well as economic, for the women on this island. I felt it the day before I left from Ha’apai.

Due to the pandemic of COVID-19, I moved to capital Tongatapu to return to Japan.
( We could not go back to Japan straitly with national airline cancels and we are still staying Tongatapu,,,, When we can go back? ,,,or not?,,,,)

After I got the notice, I asked to learn the way how to make a Taovala (one accessory in #4 Where do you go with favourite clothes ?) I just wanted to learn the way of weaving to prepare it in Japan.
However, they couldn’t stand to see my poor hand works and spent one and a half-day to make my Taovala because they thought I may not be able to finish even a year.

They weaved it with three people , or one was missing ,or another was joining ,, or the other missing again,,,,
eating some snack , laughing at something , and I joined ,too,,,
Finally, my Taovala was finished by 7 women at all.
It is very soft and nice.
I can see the difference of those meshes and say “ this part is by Patiola, this tiny part is by Petalisa” ,those differences are good memory for me.
Even they are a ministry of agriculture staffs , they are given priority to make a gift for me than daily work at the day.
I felt they are very warm and cool because they spent time for me and they can do it.

Waving a mat or a taovala is ‘Lalanga’ in Tongan language.
Ha’apai girls grow up with helping to weave for mother .They are worthy artists. My young 20th colleges are one of those women. The cool thing about them is that they don’t consider themselves authors.They weave it like brushing our teeth.

For example, a special one for a wedding or a birthday is double weaved for both side surface. This type of mat for 7feet ×8feet (1feet is about 30cm) is around 2000 pa’anga (about 100 thousand yen).
My taovala was only one side surface for 3feet × 1feet. It’s possible to use it for a table centre. It was a special order for me, not for Tongans.

Why is this mat is so expensive ??
It’s not only for a weaving time. The way is very simple like I can do it..

The hardest part is creating the material.
Firstly, it should grow plants called Pandanus.
Cut the branches, split long and thin and boil it to make it soft.At this moment, they are green.
And then, soak it in the sea for bleach for 7days.
After a week, it will become white~generated colour.
Dry and after dried perfectly, soak it in rainwater.
Roll it up and down so that the fibres are straight, spread it out to make it a habit, and dry it again.
If the weather is good, it will dry completely in 2-3 days, wrap it face up and store it, and we can weave at any time.

But if it’s rain during drying, it will take long days for drying. Tongan people don’t do anything after hanging even if it’s rain. They just wait for washed clothes dried for days, too. So, it takes about 2 weeks to 1 month to get the material “ Loakau”.

When they weave, split the material same width. They use only beautiful parts, throw both ends out. Even if the rest comes out, no use the sides. It looks no use it of like a quarter.
It’s really “Mottainai” but it needs to select for a beautiful performance.

Ha’apai is very famous for weaving in Tonga.
Unfortunately, they hardly on the market, just are made it for them family or some orders.

They weave every day from early morning till late night. They are all artists. This is a lifestyle of the majority of women in Ha’apai .Of course, men and kids work together in a field or the sea.

They prepare own food, own clothes( Taovala was a cloth at an ancient time, it’s like a tie now.) and mats for a house.
A home having girls must prepare wedding items like Japanese. We prepare Kimono and Kimono chest .Tongan family prepare a wedding long long taovala and a big mat for a family of marriage partner ( Bigger and bigger is better)

Every country has such a custom, but in Japan, it is becoming an “old” custom , I think.

I’m not stuck in old days. but after I got a beautiful present from young girls with traditional skill, I felt enviable for having a skill.
They can prepare things for a family, they can give a present, and they can get money with it !! That is a real surviving skill !!
Is this skill makes their huge laugh ??
I always always lived hearing it as I thought so.

I’m staying in the capital for a week.
I can’t meet any Ha’apai people having faced every day ,but thankfully, Tongan say to me “ Tonga is safer. Better to stay here.”
as the world has become dense due to the influence of COVID-19.

Tonga is Tonga. They are full of warm heart.
Today, my homestay family in Tongatapu gave a lot of taros and yams to me.
I am really grateful for the response that is different from the country where it is treated as a virus.

I want to have a warm heart and laugh like Ha’apai women , maybe with weaving what I learned.

Author ; Miki Kato