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Samoan Material Culture

Right angled plaiting

Right angled plaiting

The baby mats described have followed the rule, laid down for plaiting, that both sets of crossing wefts are included at the one commencing edge and thus all wefts run obliquely to all edges. At Fitiuta in Tau, baby mats were observed in which the crossing wefts ran parallel to the side and end edges respectively. One set of wefts commenced at one edge and the crossing wefts all commenced at another edge set at right angles to the first. The disposal and direction of the two sets of plaiting wefts thus resembles that of the warp and wefts in weaving. This form of right angled plaiting has been mentioned in a form of pandanus basket (Pl. XVI, D). If the old tanga baskets were made with this plait, it is possible that the technique may have been applied to small baby mats, originally without diffusion from a foreign source. Dr. Margaret Mead collected a number of excellent samples of the technique for Bishop Museum (Pl. XVIII, A), together with the Samoan terms used. After conversation with her, the technique was recorded, but judgment is reserved as to whether it is original or due to more recent diffusion. The statement of the present old Samoans as to the age of a technique cannot be accepted without reservation in doubtful instances. An examination of reliably old material in other museums, if present, may clear up the doubt that exists. To distinguish the two general techniques, the mats with the orthodox oblique wefts are termed fa'aalo and those with the right angled plaiting, tapito.

Tapito mats. The commencement is made with unsplit butt strips bearing 5 or 6 wefts. The arrangement is shown in figure 122.

The usual twilled twos in parallel oblique lines (fig. 122 b) retains the twilled two technical term of lalanga lua, but when arranged to form zigzag lines (Pl. XVIII, A, 3), the technique is termed fa'api'opi'o (crooked), but the alternate oblique panels of plaiting so obtained are termed fa'afatuamanga (Pl. XVIII, A, 4.) Geometrical designs (fa'asumu) may also be worked. By tilting the work with one corner towards the observer, the technique by which geometrical motives are produced in the orthodox plaiting of fa'aalo mats is seen to have been followed in the right angled plaiting of tapito mats.

Another decorative effect is obtained in check by using alternate wide wefts unsplit and splitting the other alternates into three narrower wefts. The check plait is made regardless of the width of individual wefts. (See Pl. XVIII, A, 2.) Thin strips of lau'ie are overlaid on the narrow wefts to add a color contrast. The technique is termed lalanga atoa (atoa, wide).

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The edges of the tapito mat are finished off by doubling the wefts that project beyond the marginal wefts round their outer edge back on the under surface and pushing them through under a number of crossing wefts on the body of the plaiting. The two edges with the butt strips are treated in the same way after first splitting the undivided butt strips into their component wefts. Dr. Margaret Mead informed me that a fa'atala serrated edge was also formed by plaiting sets of five projecting wefts to a diminishing point.

Figure 122.—Baby mat (tapito) commencement:

Figure 122.—Baby mat (tapito) commencement:

a, check plait. The butt strips (1) and (3) provide the longitudinal wefts which act like sinistrals and the butt strip (2) on the left supplies transverse crossing wefts which are separated into two alternating series with the left hand to act like the dextrals in ordinary plaiting. The separated series of transverse wefts is shown over the left weft from strip 3. Weft-bearing butt strips are added at the bottom to the right of (3) and on the left edge above (2) to obtain the dimensions of the mat. b, Twill plait. The addition of wefts is the same as in (a). In changing the elements of the pairs to obtain a twill, the lines of twill run obliquely instead of horizontally or vertically as in orthodox plaiting in which the wefts are inclined obliquely from the very commencement.