|Mark wearing a ta'ovala|
First, you need to find a pandanus plant. Or several, considering that you'll need to pick about 100 leaves from it. This is what mats are usually made of.*
|Look for pandanus like these, but watch out. Non-poisonous creepy-looking 4cm-long spiders like to build webs in the groves!|
|Removing spines from pandanus leaves|
|Peeling the boiled pandanus leaves|
|A bundle bleaching in the seawater|
|Leaves ready to be washed and dried after their week-long soak|
Shake out your coils, and hang them on your clothesline to dry. Once they are dry, they'll look like the picture below, and you'll be ready to start weaving. Alternatively, you could bypass all of the preparation above, and buy pre-treated pandanus rolls in the market for about $20 TOP (or $10 USD) at the market. They look like large, fibrous cinnamon rolls, and you'll need 4 for a decently-sized waist mat.
|Dried, prepared leaves ready to be used|
|A half-finished mat, with long strips waiting to be woven into the next band of mat|
|A fine mat, finished in the Niuatoputapu style, waiting to be sold.|
** Another good explanation can be found on the blog of our friends Jim and Lynn.
These beautiful pictures were taken by the Tonga Development Bank branch manager in Niuatoputapu, for our entry in the Association of Development Financing Institutions in
The islands of Niuatoputapu and Niuafo'ou are northern-most in Tonga, and are actually closer to Samoa and Fiji than to the other Tongan islands. The distance between Niuatoputapu and where we live in Tongatapu is like the distance between San Francisco and LA in the US, but only if there was mostly water in between, and if both LA and San Francisco were one-onehundredth of their current size (Niuatoputapu has 1,000 people, and Tongatapu has 35,000 people). Niuatoputapu was devastated by the 2009 tsunami that affected Samoa, and many people lost their homes and livelihoods.
The bank's Niuatoputapu project helps the individuals affected by that tsunami by giving small loans to handicraft enterprises, and has already seen pretty exciting results. The creation of fine mats from pandanus leaves is one of the sole sources of income on the island, and people were devastated when approximately 58% of pandanus plants were destroyed by the 2009 tsunami. Now, the plants have grown back, allowing women, with the help of the project funds, to start weaving fine mats to be sold this June in Tongatapu at a national handicraft show. Approximately 90% of the handicrafts to be sold are funded by the bank's project.
Last year, TDB won the same award for two current projects: a microlending product and a New Zealand Aid-funded product. The microlending product helps people who have skills but no collateral to start small businesses, while the NZ product encourages small business growth within the productive sectors; Agriculture, Industry & Business, Fishing and Women Development Groups.