Island News

The art of weaving

Written By : JONATHAN BRYCE. The art of weaving traditional types of designed mats and hand-bags is no easy task and can take months or even years to master completely.
05 Jul 2008 12:00

image Written By : JONATHAN BRYCE. The art of weaving traditional types of designed mats and hand-bags is no easy task and can take months or even years to master completely.
One woman however, Ms Naomai Vakarau, had mastered this art from childhood and has made a professional living from this skill which she has said is something her mother taught her and is a traditional skill that has been learnt and passed down for many generations down her family line.
Since her days as a primary school student, Ms Vakarau has been weaving mats and hand-bags to perfection. Today the 40-year-old professional art weaver sells her merchandise from a stall at Suva’s local Handicraft Centre where she and her mother continue this proud tradition of weaving beautiful hand-made mats and hand-bags for their many target customers.
Ms Vakarau went on to speak about the basic abilities needed to weave mats and hand-bags and also her business which deals with her selling her products to the public. “Today, it takes about two-days for us to weave together a single hand-bag and it takes another two days to weave a whole mat. I haven’t really found any struggles or hardships in this type of business and I’m quite happy with it, but the difficulties from the current economic situation make it a little hard for this type of business. That makes it a real challenge” said Ms Vakarau.
Ms Vakarau’s talents in this field are so appreciated by many and well-known for their creative beauty, that she also receives special orders to weave mats and hand-bags for people and even does orders for members of the government.
She is currently working on schedule to make a number of her designed woven hand-bags for Adi Cakobau School. However, Ms Vakarau does not limit the skills she has to her stall at the Suva Handicraft Center, but also takes her talents outside her stall and branches outwards.
“I’m part of a group that’s being organized by the Ministry of Tourism. Through the Ministry, we are coordinated to go out to many selected places, we go to the villages, and we teach a lot of people how to weave these traditional types of mats and make these types of hand-bags” Ms Vakarau said. “We are paid to teach many of these people and we’re quite proud of it.”
Ms Vakarau said that she came from a family with two brothers and three sisters. Just as she did, all of Ms Vakarau’s siblings have also learnt their family’s artistic skills in weaving mats and hand-bags.
Ms Neomai Vakarau’s products are considered to be quite valuable with her hand-bags selling from such prices going from $25 to an astonishing $80 a bag.
Neomai Vakarau is also part of a second organisation known as the Pacific Arts Festival delegation which is comprised of many other traditional artists like herself from around the South Pacific.
Ms Vakarau is also part of the group from the Pacific Arts Festival delegation which will travel to Samoa on the 17th of this month. She will represent the traditional artistic weavers within the group as well as be part of the Festival’s representatives of Fiji.
“I believe that they will have a specific Fijian booth set up for us in the Pacific Arts Festival when we get to Samoa. One part of it will be set up for selling tapa and maybe some other things while the other will be for selling our woven products” said Ms Vakarau. The Pacific Arts Festival will be in Samoa until the 1st of August.
Ms Vakarau has considered many of the possibilities of selling her merchandise to an overseas market. According to Ms Vakarau, there is a second group that is also part of the Pacific Arts Festival. “While our group will be going to Samoa, the other group may be going to places like the United States and there is quite a market for our sort of things there, also in other countries too. Because of the exchange rate of their money, its worth a lot more in many of those overseas countries.”
Ms Vakarau loves her job and is currently working with her mother in completing many more artist products with the skills they have used throughout the years. She chose to conclude with advice to anyone who had such artistic skills and ambition to show and selling them. “Just go for it. Success is yours to take. It will be hard at first but it’s worth it.”

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