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Samoan Material Culture

Uses of Bark Cloth

Uses of Bark Cloth

Loin cloth (malo). Samuel Ella (11, p. 167) states that the maro (malo) made of siapo was a narrow strip of a foot wide and six feet or so in length. The maro of other Polynesian islands was wound around the waist and an end passed back between the legs. Stair (33, p. 110) states that the maro (girdle), tied loosely around the loins, was worn by thieves in their night operations.

Kilt or skirt (lavalava). The single sheet (lau'a tasi) worn by men and the two thicknesses (taloa) worn by women, when used around the waist as kilt or skirt are called lavalava from their use.

Belt or girdle (fusi siapo). Pieces of varying length and about a foot wide were worn around the waist as girdles after the fine mats had been put-on. The girdles were often for keeping the mats in position. Cloth rolled around the waist was also called fanga'au or fangau.

Wrappers ('afu). A sheet of cloth was used as a wrapper in the evenings or early mornings.

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Bed clothes ('afu loto). Sheets were used as bed covers at night after discarding the kilt. It was usually the same as the 'afu mentioned above.

Poncho (tiputa). According to Samuel Ella (11, p. 168) and other early missionaries, the tiputa was introduced to Samoa from Tahiti by the missionary teachers. It was about five feet long by thirty inches wide, with a hole in the middle. The head was put through the hole and the sleeveless garment thus covered the breasts and back, which the Samoans in their own culture saw no necessity for covering.

Bodice without sleeves (pi). This was also a missionary introduction contemporaneous with the teaching of foreign ideas of modesty.