Encouraging Traditional Weaving in Vanuatu

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry in Vanuatu has called on provincial governments nation-wide to encourage women and girls to weave ‘Made in Vanuatu’ products. The ministry said instead of buying Chinese products to sell to tourists, locally woven items were preferred.

A traditional weaver in Port Vila agreed, saying there was strong demand from female tourists for her table mats because of their heat resistant properties. Leimok Peter of Lelepa Island, who has been weaving all her life, sells her products at the Handicraf Senta (Handicraft Centre) in the capital. She told the Daily Post newspaper the place mats, which come in different patterns and sizes, were one of her most popular products.

Mrs Peter said parents should ensure their daughters learned how to weave, as it was a valuable life skill. RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in Vanuatu said traditional weavers had come to realize they could earn money from their skills by selling products to tourists in Port Vila and Luganville.

An increasing number of tourists now know where to go to buy ‘made in Vanuatu’ products – in the Handikraf Senta at the Seafront. This is where more and more ni Vanuatu weavers, carvers and makers of local products have been both vendors and producers as well as ordering products from the islands to counter the traditional Chinese cheap products that have been flooding women’s stalls for the last 39 years.

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Traditional Vanuatu Weaving- photo from http://www.sista.com.vu

Leimok Peter is one such specialist who has been weaving, among other products, table mats for hot trays of food, kettles of tea or any other hot containers on the table during family dinner.

The vendor and producer was caught weaving her next table mat to meet the rising demand for her products of different sizes, patterns and colors. Asked how she manages to keep up with the demand, she says she also gets members of her extended family on Lelepa to weave table mats for her. “I also buy products from them to sell to the tourists and this is important for my network since the money I receive is distributed in the community back home on my Island”, she explains.

Asked what motivates her to weave, she replies, “I find that by weaving, new ideas come to me to become creative so it helps me to try out something different and this pushes me to continue to weave. After losing my beloved husband, as far as income earning is concerned, I have not experienced that space yet.”

However, she has an important message for young girls, “Please leave your FB Page on your mobile phones and learn from your mothers, grandmothers and relatives how to weave to earn an income. “Visitors come to Vanuatu to buy locally made products but if you do not learn the skills to weave, one day when your loved ones are no longer around, you might be forced to return to selling cheap imported Chinese products.”

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