The Fiji Times Online recently ran an article written by Sikeli Qounadovu titled, “Passing on a Dying Art” that I found interesting and would like to summarize for you. It was about the art of mat making. In Fiji mats were considered an important element in the wealth of the Fijian family and were traditionally given at weddings, funerals or during the visits of high chiefs.
There are certain areas throughout Fiji where people are known for creating unique traditional items in an iTaukei (indigenous people of the Fiji Islands) environment. This is especially true in the art of a mat making that includes coco, vakabati, vakamalua, ibe va daligana and ibe duadua.
For example, in the Bua and Cakaudrove Provinces on the island of Vanua Levu the people are known for producing the finest kuta, a mat with very fine weaving. Kabara Island is famous for being the home to the best craftsmen in the country. The town of Vatulele on the island of Viti Levu is recognized for being the capital of producing masi or tapa cloths.
However, on the island of Gau some of the villagers have specialized in another unique production of mats called the bati ni loga. This is a kind of mat that has names of people or places usually printed in black pandanus and woven into the mat. One of these special artisans is Likusiani Tikoigau, a 68 year-old grandmother who has master the art after years of practice. Originally from Sawaieke Village and now residing in Lovu Village, the mother of six started weaving when she was only eight years old. “I was still very young when my grandmother would usually call me and tell me ‘come and let me teach you how to weave.” she said.
Mrs. Tikoigau added, “This is what Gau is known for, and at times we have always passed on this art to our younger generation by teaching them.” Apart from her daily chores Mrs Tikoigau also sells mats, sasa broom and oil to help meet the family’s daily expenses. She said that one bati ni loga could take as long as two weeks to make and can be priced at $400 Fijian dollars. While age may be catching up, one thing is for sure, Mrs. Tikoigau was showing no sign of slowing down from doing what she loves best and that is weaving.