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Samoan Material Culture

Closing the Holes

Closing the Holes

Attention has been drawn to holes unavoidably present in the lau'a form of beaten cloth. The process of closing them by means of patches is called puni u'a for short but the full name is puni mata o le u'a. The term puni means to close, and mata is really the mesh of a net. In the thin cloth, the crossing fibres of the material are plainly perceived. The holes show as openings between the fibres, hence the naming after the meshes of a net. The expression puni mata o le u'a means closing the meshes of the cloth.

The pieces of lau'a may be dealt with after they are dried or at some other convenient time. Sometimes they are closed immediately before the dye is applied or while the actual pieces are being stuck together to form the thicker cloth. The closing of the holes is done with patches of lau'a which are stuck page 293to the material with a glutinous substance. The materials required are a board, the glutinous material, a bamboo knife, and the patching material.

The board (papa) may consist of the papa valu upon which the bast is scraped or the board upon which the cloth is dyed. A board must be used, but a special one is not necessary for patching alone.

The glutinous material seen in use consisted of three kinds but Pratt (23, p. 324) mentions a fourth.

1.Arrowroot (masoa). The tuber of the arrowroot is washed and cooked in an oven. It then forms a ball of paste which may be dipped every now and again in water to moisten it. This is the usual form but a woman was seen using a cooked ball of the prepared arrowroot which she dipped in water before applying it to the cloth.
2.Breadfruit ('ulu). The over ripe breadfruit is very sticky and tenacious. The top of the fruit is removed and the rind acts as a natural glue pot containing the softened over ripe fleshy material. To apply it, a longitudinal section of coconut husk is used as a brush. The outer skin of the husk envelope is left attached, and the section is about 0.5 inches to 1 inch wide, 0.25 inches thick, and a few inches long. One end forms the handle and the other end is cut off square. The sticky material is thick, very white, and has a strong odor. On asking a woman who was using another material why she did not use breadfruit, she said that the unpleasant odor attracted too many flies. The 'ulu uea is the best kind of breadfruit for paste. Some varieties are not suitable.
3.Pipturus propinquus (fau songa). The fan songa is the plant whose bark furnishes the best material for lines and cords. The bark contains a copious, clear gum which exudes freely when the bark is cut. The woman seen using it, had a number of narrow strips of bark a few inches long which had been sliced from the tree. They were arranged in a wooden bowl with a little water in it and with the inner or bast surface upwards. On the bast surface, the exuding sticky gum had formed quite an appreciable layer. In using, she took up a piece of bark, applied its inner sticky surface to the material and wiped the gum off on it.
4.Cordia aspera (tou). Pratt (23, p. 324) states that the berries of the tou were used as a paste in making siapo. No information was obtained from native sources. It was formerly used as a dye, but Pratt's use of the word "paste" would seem to indicate that he meant the sticking together of material in the making of siapo.

The bamboo knife was seen in use at Vaitongi, Tutuila, for cutting patches. The small sheets obtained from the thinner 'auli'i saplings are beaten for patching material.

The technique of patching is simple. The woman examines each lau'a sheet and draws the hole over the middle of the board. She smooths out and flattens the sheet. Judging the size of the hole she cuts out a piece of lau'a from the patching strip, taking care to allow for an overlap. She lays the piece over the hole to verify the size. If too large, she trims it down to suit. She then applies the glutinous material to the upper surface of the lau'a sheet around the margin of the hole. The patch is simply dabbed down on the material and pressed with the open palm to close the mata. The glutinous material is never applied primarily to the patch. The edges of the hole, if ragged are trimmed with the bamboo knife.