Samoan Material Culture
The Samoan name for bark cloth is siapo. The term tapa used in Tahiti (Hawaiian form, kapa), is not used as a general name for the material. Pratt (23, p. 310), however gives tapa as "One of the white borders of a siapo.? In Maori, tapa means the border of a garment. The Samoan use of the word is applied to the border rather than to the material.
Stair (33, p. 115) states:
Before the contact with Europeans, and indeed for some time after, the use of siapo as an article of dress was confined to a few unmarried females of the highest rank, O Tausala, titled ladies; all others being prohibited from wearing it upon pain of heavy chastisement. The privileged few only wore it in the house. For a long time past the rule has been broken through, and siapo is now worn by all persons of either sex.
Figure 165.—Fine mat, triangular ornamentation:
a, and ?b, a strip of weft material, 1.25 inches wide, is folded into a triangle 1.5 inches wide across the base (9) and cut off below the base. A sufficient number are prepared to stretch across the width of the garment. c, The first triangle (1) is laid on the upper surface of the mat with its base level with the upper edge of the plaiting and on the right. The thread consists of a narrow piece of weft material with one end knotted while a pointed stick was used before the steel needle to pierce holes. Stitches to attach the triangles to the garment are made through the base part about 0.25 inches from their edge. The first hole is made through the outer part (1') and the thread drawn through to the knot. The thread passing to the left on the under surface of the garment is brought through to the front at the point (2') well in from the left edge of the triangle. The second triangle (2) is placed in position with its right edge against the thread. The thread is passed through the overlapping part of both triangles and similar stitches made as each triangle is added on the left. The last triangle has a short stitch made over its left edge and the thread is tied at the back. d, The row of triangles is doubled over so that their apices are directed towards the fringe. e, In more modern methods, two strips of material about 1.5 inches wide, with their dull surfaces together, are cut off into 2.5 inch lengths and one end cut to a point. The strips are placed with their points towards the fringes and the square ends stitched to the plaited material with a sewing machine. The change from the folded triangles to pointed strips has been influenced by the introduction of scissors and sewing machines. f, A double row of longer (1) and shorter (2) pointed strips is sometimes used.
Brigham (4, p. 36), in 1911, stated that "Samoa is a group where the manufacture is still carried on, but merely for the supply of curiosity dealers and it may be supposed the work is not improving." The supposition as regards the work not improving is probably correct but it is inexact to state that even now, in 1928, siapo is manufactured merely to supply curio dealers. No doubt the outside demand by tourists and dealers leads to extra material being made. The continuance of manufacture is also due to the persistence of certain social customs and needs. During the Bishop Museum tour around Tutuila we were struck by the chiefs and talking chiefs appearing at the village welcomes dressed in siapo. The same applied to women during the ta'alolo food ceremonies. At a wedding ceremony in Manua, a considerable number of pieces of siapo figured among the wedding presents. For ordinary presents to visitors, siapo has taken the place of fine mats. In western Samoa, the Government prohibition against the giving! of fine mats has led to the substitution of large numbers of siapo pieces at feasts, weddings and funerals. The giving of siapo with ceremonial kava drinking and the high chief's sua portion of food still persist in custom. A talking chief is not properly dressed unless he has a kilt of siapo as well as his orator's fly switch. Sheets are still used as partitions in guest houses and as bedding, while foreign influence is to be seen in their use as table covers in the various Samoan homes.
Though discontinued in most parts of Polynesia, bark cloth making is still an active craft in Samoa. Though there is evidence that some of the dyes have been forgotten and the wooden tablet (upeti) is displacing the original article made of pandanus leaves, the technical process remains the same. There are no lost secrets of the craft and the lack of exact detail in the Report of the Wilkes Expedition, that was deplored by Brigham (4, p. 38). can be supplied even now. The marked differences in some parts of the Samoan technique compared with that of Hawaii, the Society, and neighboring groups, justify a detailed description of Samoan manufacture. The outstanding features in Samoan technique are the absence of felting and the use of the upeti tablet for rubbing instead of printing.
Materials and Technique
The plant universally used is the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). The name in common use is u'a, while the other name of tutunga is unknown to many of the younger people. The name u'a is also applied to a young breadfruit tree and to a net prepared from its bark. Tradition states that the plant was brought from Fiji and that Suai-fonua brought the tutunga to Fonga-savaii and Faiaai in the Salenga district of Savaii.
The use of any plant except u'a is now denied, and breadfruit bast is restricted to making cords for a type of seine net. The paper mulberry,page 284planted from cuttings (maunu), is cultivated in the food plantations. Saplings are used while a second growth (tuapipi) is also utilized.
Peeling the bark. The bark was peeled (sasae) from the wood (aumafuti) and the process termed sae u'a. The name for any bark is pa'u but that of the paper mulberry was also referred to as u'a. The saplings now generally used are about as thick as the thumb, though smaller sticks ('auli'i) may be used to provide material for patching holes. Large saplings are unsuitable as the bark is too tough to beat out into sheets.
The bark is separated at the butt end, usually with the teeth, and a short longitudinal slit made down one side. It is said that the longitudinal slit must be on the convex side of any curve in the stake. The reason given is that the texture of the bark is more complex on the concave side. The bark as it is pulled off, will split cleaner on the convex side, whereas on the concave side the edges are left ragged. The bark is worked down from the butt until the left hand can grasp the freed bark. Holding the wood with the right, the bark is pulled away from the wood in a long tube which splits on the convex side from the initial cut. Towards the tip end, care has to be exercised as the projecing buds of leaves adhering to the wood tend to split the bark on either side of them and leave portions attached. Any such tendency is watched and the base of the knob pushed off with the thumb nail to free it with the bark. When the strip becomes too small, the bark is cut off.
Peeling off the bast (fofo'e). The bast is usually separated from each strip, immediately after stripping it from the wood. The inner bark or bast has no specific name but is referred to as pa'u pito i totonu (the part of the bark on the inside), as against pa'u pito i tua (the part outside). The strip of bark is wound around the left hand, commencing with the butt end with the inner surface outwards. The somewhat tubular strip of bark is thereby opened out and flattened.
The strip is opened out in its length and a transverse cut made through the outer bark near the butt end. The outer bark is lifted up, with the edge of a knife or a piece of bamboo, until it separates across the width of the strip and sufficiently down its length to allow the left hand to grasp it. The bast is held down on the right thigh by the right palm while the left hand pulls the outer bark away from it. The two separate quite readily along a natural plane of cleavage but care is exercised in separating with the thumb nail any portions of outer bark that tend to stick to the bast. This applies especially towards the tip end where the leaf buds are. When the tip end has run out, the strip is reversed and the portion of the butt end on the butt side of the tranverse cut dealt with similarly. (See Plate XXXII, B, 1.) During the separation, the strip is kept taut between the two knees, or legs. The outer bark is discarded and the bast thrown into a bowl of water. Each strip of page 285bark is dealt with by the above two processes before proceeding to the next stage. The second stage gets its name from fofo'e (to peel).
Scraping the bast. The scraping of the bast (fai u'a or fafai u'a) requires a scraping board, a number of shell scrapers, and a strip of bamboo for a knife.
The special scraping board (papa fei u'a) is dubbed out of iliili or other wood and was formerly smoothed clown with coral. An average sized board is 37 inches long, 18.5 inches wide, and about 0.75 inches thick at the edges. Sometimes a piece from the side of a canoe is used.
Shell scrapers (Pl. XXXI, B) are referred to generally as 'asi though 'asi is also the name of a specific shell. Three kinds are used: Asaphis violacea, Antigone reticulata, and a species of Area. The names applied by the Samoans vary both in districts and with the particular use of the shell.
The 'ofe knife is merely a strip of dry bamboo about 0.25 to 0.5 inches wide and of any convenient length.
Scraping the bast is clone in a stream when such is available. Otherwise a wooden bowl containing water forms part of the equipment. The board is propped up at a convenient angle against a stone or other support. The lower end rests on the ground where the worker seats herself. Though the whole process is termed fai u'a, the actual scraping is valu u'a. There are usually four stages of scraping and rubbing and a different shell is used with each stage.
Scraping (valu u'a). A strip of bast is placed longitudinally on the middle of the board with the butt end towards the top and the surface that was next to the outer bark uppermost. On this surface, streaks of green coloring matter adhere and the first scraping is to remove them. In Manua and Tutuila, the shell of the Asaphis violacea (pipi) is used (Plate XXXI, B, 1.) In Savaii, the rough untrimmed edge of the Arca is in vogue (Pl. XXXI, B, 2) except at Safune where the pipi is common. The Arca shell so used is termed 'asi valu. A shell full of water is dipped out of the bowl and dropped on the upper part of the bast strip so that it runs down over it. The scraping is made with backhanded movements upwards and away from the body, the outer surface of the shell being towards the worker. Every now and again a shell full of water is dropped on the bast. When the green coloring matter and coarser particles of outer bark have been scraped off, the other stages of the process are completed before another section of the same strip is moved up. (See Plate XXXI, C.)
Rasping (mangeo or pae). The next stage consists in rasping the surface of the bast with the rough outer surface of an Antigone reticulata shell. (See Plate XXXI, B, 3.) In western Samoa, the shell is called mangeo and in eastern Samoa, pae. In each area, the process receives the local name page 286of the shell. The outer rasping surface of the shell is held downwards on the bast with the hinge part towards the worker. Both thumbs grasp it on the outside whilst the fingers exert downward pressure on the inner surface of the shell which faces upwards. The movements are again upwards and outwards. They loosen interfibrous material that the first scraping was unable to remove. A little water is splashed on every now and again with the shell. The surface of the bast is left rough with little particles sticking up after the rasping is completed.
Smoothing (pae or fa'amalu). This process consists of smoothing down the rough surface left by the rasping and at the same time removing any loose particles or ends. Here there is some confusion between the methods of western and eastern Samoa. In western Samoa, the pae is an Arca shell that has had its slightly irregular natural edge ground to an even sharp cutting edge. (Plate XXXI, B, 4.) This edge is used as in scraping. It removes the loose pieces and irregular ends; The movements are up and out and water continues to be used. The process is called pae which in eastern Samoa has been given to the Antigone reticulata shell and the process of rasping.
In eastern Samoa, the shell is also the Arca but the back is used as in rasping. The back or outer surface is grooved but the ridges are not serrated as in the Antigone reticulata. It thus acts quite effectively in removing loose particles and smoothing down the bast surface. In Tutuila, the variation existing in some villages was the use of the back of the shell continued on into the next process, whereas in others, a different shell was used. The process was called fa'amalu as was also the shell used for the process, though the general shell name was 'asi.
Drying (to). In western Samoa, the process of expressing as much of the moisture as possible was termed ta. The shell used was an Arca that had been ground from both sides to form an even, obtuse-angled blunt edge. (See Plate XXXI, B, 5.) Water was dashed on and scraped off to clean the bast. The last movements were applied with firm pressure to remove as much of the moisture as possible. The shell was held as in scraping.
In eastern Samoa, the shell used in the previous process was further utilized with firmer pressure to effect the drying purpose. The back was used and the process combined with the former was called fa'amalu. In some villages, however, an Arca shell corresponding to the western Samoa ta was used in the same way but was called langalanga.
After the section of bast has been subjected to the four processes, the strip is moved up so as to allow the next section to be done. In this manner, the strip is finished in sections. The last section with the end of the strip is reversed in direction so that the end is efficiently dealt with by the upward page 287sweeps of the shells. In western Samoa the scraping movements are always from butt to tip except for the butt end which has to be turned. In eastern Samoa, however, I noticed a woman doing the reverse.
In Leone, a woman used both a pipi (Asaphis violacea) and an 'asi (Arca) for the first scraping process and a langalanga as well as a fa'amalu for the two last processes. She also used an Antigone reticulata rasp. Thus she used five different shells as against three in some villages and four in western Samoa. After the drying stage, the fai u'a process is completed as far as the individual strip is concerned.
Each scraped strip is folded separately into quarter lengths with the internal surface of the first quarter uppermost on the board. The ta shell is used on the folded strip to express as much moisture as possible. From the manner of folding, the external surfaces will be to the outside both below and above. Other folded strips after scraping are placed above the first and the whole bundle again scraped with the blunt ta shell after each addition. The butt end is reversed with each alternate strip so as to make the bundle as even as possible. The bundle may contain from two to seven folded pieces. The topmost one is left as folded so that the outer surface of the bast is to the outside of the bundle both above and below. The Samoans attach importance to the method of folding. The bundle is called tapapanga u'a. Pratt (23, p. 64) gives the alternative name of ulututunga.
The pressure with the ta shell, besides removing any extra moisture, presses the strips closer together so that they appear as one piece. The tapapanga bundles are put under cover of an old strip of cloth to prevent their drying before the next process, which must wait until all the bast strips have been dealt with.
The term ta means both washing and expressing as much moisture as possible. It is nowadays applied to the washing and wringing of textile clothing.
Beating the Bast
For the important process of beating out the bast (tutu) an anvil and beaters are required.
The anvil (tutua). The anvil was usually made of toi wood as it gave a more musical sound when beaten. An example seen in use was 5 feet 7 inches long, rectangular in cross section, the upper and lower surfaces 8.5 inches wide and the sides 7 inches. The upper longitudinal edges were rounded off (See Plate XXXI, D.) Others seen in use were merely sections of a tree trunk.page 288
A well made anvil in Bishop Museum is 6 feet 9 inches in length. The upper surface is 8 inches wide in the middle, tapering down to 6.5 inches at the ends where it is rounded off. The sides are slightly under cut and ornamented with a continuous deeply incised chevron pattern. The sides are 5 inches deep in the middle. The under side has three transverse bars projecting down slightly and serving as legs, one in the middle, and the others towards the ends. On either side of the middle leg and running out to the outer legs, the under surface has been hollowed out.
The anvils were hollowed out to give a better sound for in olden days, women amused themselves at work by beating out various rhythms. They had many signals by which they could warn one another of the approach of strangers, and conduct a limited conversation. Anvils were also made of toa and ala'a wood.
Beaters (i'e) were usually made of pau wood but some were made of toa (Casuarina sp.). The Samoans classified them into smooth beaters (i'e mole) and grooved beaters (i'e tosi). In shape, they classify readily into two types, round and foursided. Of sixteen beaters in Bishop Museum, ten are four sided, five round, and one a variation of the round type. Another term for a grooved beater is i'e teuteu. (See Plate XXXI, A.)
The round beaters are all smooth without any longitudinal grooves and are thus all i'e mole. They are longer than the other type, ranging from 15 inches to 17.75 inches with an average of 16 inches. In cross section, the beating part is usually elliptical though some may be circular. The beating part slopes gradually back into the handle, usually with no shoulder or abrupt change to mark any junction. The handle is much less in diameter than the blade and is usually flared out at its proximal end. (For the type beater see Plate XXXI, A, 1.)
The main variations may be summed up: The cross section is elliptical in four beaters, with the greatest diameter at the distal end ranging between 2.5 and 2.7 inches, the difference to the lesser diameter ranges from 0.2 to 0.4 inches. One was circular.
Between the beating part and handle, one beater out of five had a distinct shoulder 7.5 inches from the distal end, the beater being 16 inches long. The others had no trace as the slope was gradual.
The cross section of the handle was circular in three being 1.3 to 1.4 inches diameter. The largest beater had a difference in two diameters of 0.1 inch with the longest diameter 1.6 inches. The smallest had a difference of 0.3 inches.
Flaring of proximal end of the handle was present in two out of five.
The four-sided beaters are shorter ranging in a series of nine from 11.5 inches to 15.25 inches. They are practically square in section, with the four surfaces narrowing towards the handle. The slope from the beating part to page 289the handle is gradual and while the junction between the two parts is fairly distinct, it is not abrupt except in one abnormal form. The handle is circular in cross section but may have a slight difference in two diameters. The proximal end of the handle is usually flared. The beaters may be smooth on all four surfaces (mole), or grooved longitudinally on from one to three surfaces. In none of the beaters were all four surfaces grooved.
Smooth beaters (i'e mole). A typical beater (c. 354) not figured is 12 inches long. The cross diameters at the distal end are 2.3 and 2.2 inches. The end is cut off square. All four surfaces narrow gradually towards the handle and at the indistinct shoulder, both diameters are 1.7 inches. This point is 7.25 inches from the distal end. The handle narrows down to cross diameters of 1.5 and 1.35 inches. The proximal end of the handle flares out to cross diameters of 1.9 and 1.8 inches. The beater is smooth throughout and is 27 ounces in weight.
Of two other beaters in this sub class, one conforms closely to the type beater, but the other is very long. (See Plate XXXI, A, 4.)
Grooved beaters (i'e tosi). Of seven grooved beaters, one is grooved on one surface, five on two surfaces and one on three surfaces. The type beater is shown in Plate XXXI, A, 5.
The cross section of the beating part is practically square, there being a difference in the two diameters at most of 0.1 inch and in one case of 0.15 inches. Leaving out the special small beater, the distal diameter ranges from 2.6 to 2.9 inches with an average of 2.7 except for an abnormally large beater which has distal cross diameters of 3.2 and 3.1 inches.
All surfaces narrow towards the proximal end; none have parallel sides. By dividing the length of the beating part by the difference between the width of the distal and proximal ends of the beating surface a slope index is secured. Thus in the type beater (c. 760), the length of the beating surface is 7 inches and the difference between the two ends 0.7 inches. The index of slope is thus 1 in 10, which is a fair indication of the slope in these beaters. The beating surfaces average about 7 inches in length. At the distal end they range in width from 2.5 to 3.1 inches. At the proximal end, they average slightly over 2 inches ranging from 1.8 to 2.5 inches. The beating surfaces are thus marked by comparative short length, extra width, and by narrowing towards the proximal end.
The grooves are deep and wide but badly cut as they are often irregular at the edges. In one beater, the proximal ends of the grooves are cut off square in line with each other. In the same beater, the ridges formed by the grooves are rounded off. (See Plate XXXI, A, 7.) The beater with one grooved surface has eight grooves. In the five beaters with two grooved surfaces, the grooves are distributed as follows: 5+5, 5 + 5, 5+6, 5+8 while page 290in the beater with the widest surfaces they are 6+8. In all except the very small beater, the grooved surfaces are opposite each other. The beater with three grooved surfaces has 5 grooves on each surface. Thus 5 grooves per surface is the usual number and the most is 8. The grooves are thus very widely spaced as compared with those of east central Polynesia and Hawaii. As the same grooves vary in their distance apart owing to convergence at the proximal end, they cannot be calculated in numbers per centimetre. It may be stated, however, that at the closest they are 6 mm. apart and at the widest 11 mm.
The handles are approximately circular in the narrowest part, there being a difference of 0.1 inches at most in cross diameters. The diameter ranges between 1.3 and 1.6 inches except in one rather thin long handle where it is 1.1 and 1.2 inches in cross diameter. At the junction with the beating part, the slope is gradual and in some form a rather indistinct shoulder. In one abnormal case (Pl. XXXI, A, 7) there is first a distinct bevelled shoulder with the beating surfaces and then a perpendicular cut down to the handle, which is thinned down to the same thickness throughout. The proximal end is flared in five out of seven beaters, the increase being 0.2 to 0.3 inches more than the narrowest diameter of the handle but in the most marked flaring, the proximal end has cross diameters of 2.3 and 2.1 inches as against the circular diameter of the handle of 1.6 inches. The slope of the flare runs evenly up at the end making a sharp acute angle with the rim but in two beaters the rim was found to be trimmed off.
Large grooved beater with shoulder. The beater (Pl. XXXI, A, 7) with wide surfaces, the cut away shoulder and long shaped handle is exceptionally large and heavy. The distal end surface instead of being flat or slightly convex, is cut in pyramidal form by carrying four surfaces down from the beating surfaces to meet in a middle point with four distinct edges running from each corner to the middle point. The projection of the middle point is nearly one inch. This feature, combined with the cutting of the shoulder and shaping of the handle, shows a marked departure from normal due to the excessive use of a steel tool.
Smooth beater of triangular section. The beater in Plate XXXI, A, 3 is 14 inches long and 30 ounces in weight. The beating part is triangular in cross section with the longitudinal edges between surfaces rounded off. At the distal end, the narrowest surface is 2.5 inches and each of the others 2.75 inches.
The beating surfaces shape gradually into the handle which is flared at its proximal end. It is smooth throughout. The beater is a variation of the round type of i'e mole, the triangular section being most probably influenced by a natural tendency of the wood in that direction.page 291
Small grooved beater (Pl. XXXI, A, 8) is a departure from normal size. The owners gave Mr. A. F. Judd the name of i'e tusitusi for the beater but could give no other information as to any special use. As tusi means to mark siapo, this specially light beater may have had something to do with the beating down of the cloth on the dyeing tablet as mentioned by Ella (11, p. 168).
Foreign type. The beater figured in Plate XXXI, A, 9 was obtained on the island of Ofu, but no history could be obtained.
The tapapanga bundle, still damp, is placed lengthwise across the anvil and beaten evenly with the i'e beater. The margins and then the middle were beaten so that the thinning and spreading went on evenly by gradual stages. When the package was fairly thin, it was doubled and again beaten thinner. It was then opened out and the bands or creases at the folds which were slightly thicker were beaten to make the material of an even consistency. They were again folded and beaten. The grooved sides of the mallet were used first and the smooth sides as the material got thinner. The beating continued until the expert judged that the material was thin enough. (See Plate XXXII, B, 3.) The various packages prepared were all beaten separately before going on to the next process. The beaten material was meanwhile kept under cover of a sheet of bark cloth to prevent it drying too soon.
From the description of the scraping and folding, it will be understood that the strips of bast though damp were, speaking comparatively as regards the proceedure in parts of Polynesia to the east, fairly dry. Hence when the packages were beaten there was no felting of the strips together. On opening out the beaten bundles, the material formed from each strip came out as a separate and distinct sheet of thin cloth. They were long and narrow, wider at the butt end and thus conforming in shape with the nature of the strip. Towards the tip end, there were usually holes that coincided in position with the parts formed by flaws in the bark made by the leaf buds. Thus at the end of the beating process, the number of sheets of thin cloth corresponded to the number of strips of bark contained in the packages.
Before the material is dried, the individual sheets have to be stretched while still damp. This distinct process is termed lelenga. The tapapanga beaten bundle is removed from cover and each individual sheet unfolded (tala, to unfold). The first one is laid out to its full extent on the ground and is called the lafi lalo (the lower cover). Succesive sheets are opened out and laid out above one another with the corresponding wide parts at the same end. Each sheet is thrown out (lafo, to spread out as in spreading ordinary sheets). This is continued until from 14 to 20 sheets are in one bundle. The page 292whole bundle is called ulu u'a and the uppermost sheet, lafi lunga (the upper cover). The term lafi means to hide so that the lafi lunga and the lafi lalo sheets hide the pile between them.
A row of stones to act as weights is placed on the upper cover along the middle longitudinal line. All the sheets on one side of the stones are doubled over the row of stones so that half of the lowest sheet is on top with the others in consecutive order. The top half sheet is turned back into its original position and pulled and stretched to remove all folds and wrinkles. Each half sheet is dealt with similarly by taking them in turn from the top of the pile and replacing them in position ere stretching them. The sheets being still damp stretch easily and retain their shape when released. When all the half sheets are so dealt with, the other side of the bundle is doubled over the row of stones. Each half sheet is similarly dealt with so that on completing the lelenga process, each sheet has been fully stretched in a simple and effective manner.
The term fa'ala is to dry in the sun (la). The ulu u'a bundle is taken out into the sun after removing the row of stone weights. They may be left in one pile or separated into smaller piles.
Stones are placed on the ends to prevent their being blown about. When dry, the sheets are folded up, wrapped in a sheet of bark cloth and stored to await the other processes of technique.
The sheets are thin and white and are called lau u'a, now generally pronounced lau'a. Pratt (23, p. 156) states that lau u'a is synonymous with tutunga for which word it has been substituted on account of superstitions in connection with fishing.
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.
The compilation of siapo cloth
A completed siapo cloth is an assembling of sheets of lau'a joined together into various sizes and various thicknesses by sticking them together with one or other of the glutinous materials already mentioned in the patching of holes. The various sizes and thicknesses receive particular names but they are all siapo,
A single layer of lau'a termed lau'a tasi, is worn by young men. It is generally smeared or painted with the red-brown 'o'a dye.
The finished siapo before it leaves the hands of the craftswomen is always colored with various dyes. There are two methods of applying the dyes; one to each lau'a sheet that forms the thickness of the siapo, and the other to the last sheet that is added. In the latter process, the full size of the sheet is made in plain material before the painting of the upper outer surface is commenced. The material required is a board and the glutinous material.
The board (papa) used is that on which the painting of the siapo is usually done. It is generally formed from a portion of the hull of an old canoe. One examined was 67 inches long and 18 inches wide over its transversely convex surface.
The glutinous material is any one of those mentioned, but for plain cloth breadfruit is commonly used. It makes very white siapo which is fairly stiff ('otu 'otu).
The first lauu'a sheet is laid over the board with the widest part from the butt end of the bast towards the worker and its length transversely across the board. The section on the board is then painted over with the breadfruit paste leaving a fair margin on the right border of the sheet. The second sheet is placed carefully upon the first and the part on the board rubbed evenly to make them stick together. The upper surface of the second sheet is next pasted with the paste over an area corresponding with that pasted on the first. A third sheet of lau'a is now carefully applied and rubbed evenly to make them stick together. Three thicknesses are usually enough but a fourth and then a fifth sheet may be similarly applied according to the thickness required. In this description, three will suffice. The worker may now move the stuck sheets to her left or move along the board. It will be noted that the ends of the sheets beyond the board are separate as are also the side margins on the right. On the right, the free margins of the two upper sheets are folded back over the united part. The margin of the lower sheet is painted with paste for the width of the board. A sheet of lau'a is then reversed so that its narrow end is towards the worker. Its left margin is carefully overlapped over the pasted part of the first sheet and carefully rubbed to join them together. The section of the new sheet on the board is then pasted, care page 295being taken to carry the paste back as far as the line of adherence between the first and second sheets on the left. The free right margin of the second sheet on the left is then turned down and stuck. The upper surface of its right margin is also pasted. A second sheet with its narrow end towards the worker is then placed in position on the pasted surface and stuck. The upper surface of the second layer on the board is pasted as before as far to the left as the line of adherence between the second and third left sheets. The right margin of the third left sheet is turned back and straightened out over the pasted part. A few touches of paste are given to the upper surface of its right margin and a third sheet placed in position. The right margins of the second set of three sheets, which have been left unpasted are folded back, and a third set of three dealt with in the same manner. In this manner, sheets are added on the right until the desired depth is reached. Instead of dealing with widths of one sheet of lau'a, two or three sheets may be dealt with at once to make a convenient working width. The principle of marginal overlapping is, however, the same.
When the depth has been obtained, the stuck portion is rolled or folded longitudinally with the length of the board so as to bring another section of the free parts on the other side of the board into position on the board. Commencing at the left margin, the far ends of the sheets are folded back towards the worker. The lowest sheet is left on the board. Its upper surface is painted with paste for the section on the board. The line of adherence is now transversely on the near edge of the board. The worker sees to it that this transverse line of adherence is actually on the board. The second sheet is then turned forward over it and rubbed down. The right margins as before are left free of paste. The second sheet is smeared with paste except for the right margin and the third or upper sheet turned forward and stuck down. The next set of three on the right are dealt with successively as before. Here, however, there is now a line of adherence on the near side as well as the left. If the sheets of lau'a fit well through the alternate reversing of the sheets, when first stuck together, the margins will overlap quite well. Should there be any gap, a piece cut to the appropriate size is fitted in. When the second segment of pasting has been completed, the pasted part is further rolled to draw the next unpasted segment on to the board. Commencing on the left, the process is repeated until the required length is secured. If the length of the sheets of lau'a is not sufficient more material is joined on end to end in exactly the same way as side to side joining.
The fa'apa'o'o process. In the method of preparing the bark that has been described, it will be noted that the bast is separated from the outer bark without previous soaking in water. The bast separates quite readily as I have personally observed on several occasions. Pritchard (24, p. 130), however, states:page 296
The tree is cut clown, the bark peeled off, and soaked for forty-eight hours in water. The outer or brown bark is then separated from the inner or white, and the woody parts of the latter removed by scraping with a particular kind of shell.
The present day Samoan, however, denies that the bark was soaked beforehand as a necessary introduction to the scraping and beating of the bast. It is only done according to them when the bark cannot be dealt with immediately after it is brought in from the plantation. This occurred in past times when the paper mulberry was grown more extensively than now. When a large quantity of saplings matured at the same time, they were all cut to save the bark from becoming too old and thus useless for cloth. The bark was stripped and the bast separated (fofo'e). When the quantity of bast was too great to be scraped and beaten at once, it was stored away to await a convenient time. Before dealing with such stored bast which had become dry, it was soaked overnight in water if the fafai process of scraping was to be carried out on the following day. The scraping and beating were then exactly the same as that already described for the fresh bark. The material produced was termed u'a fa'apa'o'o to show that the u'a had been kept till it was dry instead of being beaten when fresh. The term pa'o'o means the dried gills of a fish such as the bonito which were used as a shark bait.
The Cook Islanders soaked the separated bast for twenty-four hours in water before beating it. Pritchard had been British Consul in Tahiti before going to Samoa and he may have confused the technique of that area with that of Samoa.
Joining technique. In the now prevailing technique, the individual sheets obtained from each strip of bast are stretched by the lelenga process before they are dried. They are joined together with arrowroot or other material after having been dried.
Pritchard (24, p. 130) again gives a different method as follows:
The bark is procured from the plant in strips of three, four or five inches wide, but by scraping and beating it is spread out to some ten inches, and made so thin that it is quite transparent. Several pieces are then put together, over each other, according to the thickness of the cloth required, arrowroot being used to make them stick together. The strips are then put together in widths to suit the purpose and beaten again, until they are made into one. The whole is then dried in the sun.
Again one cannot help thinking that confusion in the detail of Samoan technique has occurred through unconsciously transferring ideas formed in another area, or general deductions made through not carefully observing each detail in its proper sequence. The latter contingency would arise in regard to cloth making with any general observer who was not forced by special circumstances to carefully record the technical details of each stage in the manufacture.