Women fine mat weavers upholding Samoan culture


The best of the newly woven Samoan fine mats, the product of many months of the women’s labour and will be used in Samoan cultural presentations with a monetary value of around US$2,000

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 10 MAY 2018: The weaving programme to revive the Samoan fine mat to its original form, has achieved all its goals set down fifteen years ago.

Todays’ traditional public after months of weaving – fa’alelegapepe is part of the annual celebration of Mother’s Day and highlights the work of the mainly women weavers although some men have proven to have the gentle touch in making the intricate fine mat of the highest Samoan traditional value.

Established by the government in 2003, todays celebration proved to have surpassed all the goals and the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi commended the women for a job well done.

Fifteen years ago, the Fa’alelegapepe program had three main goals.

  • To revive the weaving of the true and original Samoan fine mats.
  • To sustain the traditional skills, the knowledge on its production for younger generations, and maintain its authenticity.  To increase the production of these fine mats by means of alleviating and reducing unnecessary burdens to the faa-Samoa.
  • To improve and increase the household income of weavers through economic benefits arising from the Samoan fine mats.

“We have achieved all these objectives over the years and I am very glad to announce that this program will continue, as it remains the only one of its kind,” said Tuilaepa.

The newly woven fine mats yet to be decorated with colorful feathers

The uniqueness of the program is not only by way its goals have been achieved, but Government rewards the weavers who produce fine mats to its highest standard and the fine mats remain as the weavers’ property to sell and use to continue to support the traditions and culture of Samoa.

Traditionally, the finest mat is woven by the mother when she gives birth to a girl. The painstaking weaving process takes as many years as the girl grows up until her wedding day when the fine mat is presented to her husbands’ family as part of her dowry.

The fine mat also engulfs the highest respect in the Samoan presentations during a funeral, wedding, title bestowment and others. It is also used as the ultimate gesture in seeking forgiveness from the offended party in the ifoga ceremony where a serious offence has been committed such as the loss of life.

Government spent close to $1.5 million talā in the programme in the last two years.

Given the high quality of the fine mats, modern technology has been used to promote and market the fine mats with lucrative returns for the weavers from overseas buyers.

A traditional art form, now refined to produce more fine mats within a year, its traditional and cultural value is enhanced with the expansion and opening of overseas markets.

In today’s celebration, more than 30 weaving groups and individual weavers received monetary rewards and certificates for weaving more than 10 fine mats of the best quality Iniini – in a year.

When the programme started, the weavers were challenged to weave 10 fine mats Iniini in a year. This year, most of the weavers produced more than 20 fine mats.

In the initial years, 2013-2014, only 100 fine mats Iniini and Tosi Tasi were showcased. Today, 520 Tosi Tasi (best quality) and 550 Ie Samoa Tosi Lua and Tosi Tolu (second and third grade mats) were showcased.

Also showcased were colorful siapo’s of different designs and sizes, and Salailua village in Savai’i, the traditional makers of the best siapo won the siapo category.

For the Ie Samoa Category, Eseta Papu Vaai retained her title as The Overall Winner second year in a row.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development Naea Beth Onesemo said the celebration was the culmination of the 12 months programme and to remind Samoa of the importance of ensuring that Samoa crafts are not lost.

Today’s celebration is the fore runner to Mother’s Day celebration on Sunday with the Mother’s Day public holiday on Monday.

The best makers of printed tapa from Sala’ilua village in Savaii