Samoan Material Culture
The larger garments, generally termed shaggy mats ('ie fau and 'ie sina), are a further development in technique to the short textile kilts. Though about the same width as the larger 'ie kilts, they are much deeper and may thus be termed skirts rather than kilts. All the edges have fringes of the page 267free ends of both dextral and sinistral wefts, but they are never plaited into three-ply braid tails. The outer surface is completely covered with strips of the same material as the wefts, but these are now separate strips attached by a special technique.
The material consists of the bast of the fau tu (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and the fau pata (Cypholopus macrocephalus). The fau tangaloa (Hibiscus tetraphyllus) is also used. The wefts are narrower but even in one garment there is considerable range in width. The plaiting stroke used is the check and all garments commence at the lower left hand corner with the typical corner commencement free of fringes seen in the 'ie kilts. (See fig. 146.)
The garments are divided mainly into 'ie fau and 'ie sina according to material, and varieties are also named from treatment to obtain change of color.
Figure 152.—Shaggy garment ('ie fau), left corner commencement and lower edge:
a, the corner has been formed by turning the wefts (1-4) as in fig. 146 and a working edge provided as shown by the sinistral (5) which lies in the shed; b, a new double sinistral consisting of the strips (6 and 6') is added and the sinistral (5) turned up over it to act as a dextral and define the lower edge. Upon the new dextral (5) a fresh dextral (7) is laid with its lower end projecting below the lower edge to provide the dextral fringe element. c, Another double sinistral (8 and 8') is placed in position and the upper element (6) of the preceding double weft is turned up over it to act as a dextral while the other strip (6') provides the sinistral fringe element; d, from the last figure, a new dextral strip (9) is laid on the turned up dextral (6). A new double sinistral (10 and 10') is then added and the upper element (8) of the preceding sinistral is turned up over it to act as a dextral while the lower strip (8') provides the sinistral fringe element. A good working depth is secured which is continued along the full width of the lower border by adding double sinistral wefts, turning up one element as a dextral and adding a dextral fringe element in the manner figured. Thus each weft in the actual plaiting is double and the double layer of crossing fringe elements is added.
The brown shaggy garment ('ie fau) is made of strips of fau tu with fairly coarse wefts. Though in parts, not much finer than the 'ie kilts of the same materials, more care is exercised in the plaiting. The garment figured in Plate XXVII, A, is a good specimen. The shaggy outer appearance is produced by the close attachment of tags, but the turned-down corner shows the check plaiting technique. The garment is roughly rectangular, but the edges are never of even width owing to the difficulty of controlling exactly the width and thickness of the wefts, which also stretch. The wefts are double but alter page 268in thickness with the addition to and taking away of weft elements. The undyed material assumes a rich brown color.
Plaiting commences with the clear lower left corner made in exactly the same way as in 'ie kilts. The plaiting of the first working section follows the same technique except that on the lower edge, in addition to the fringe elements provided by the double sinistral wefts, a second series of crossing fringe elements is added to the dextral wefts. (See fig. 152.)
The full width of the garment having been made, the right corner is turned and the right edge continued upward to complete the first working section. In both processes, the technique is the same as in 'ie kilts, except that a second set of fringe elements is provided on the right. (See fig. 153.)
Figure 153.—Shaggy garment:
a, right lower corner; b, right edge; c, right fringe. a, The last sinistral of the lower border, has the upper element (1) turned over the sinistral (2 and 2') at a right angle and then at another right angle to act as a sinistral, while its lower element (1') is left as a fringe element. The next sinistral has its upper element (2) also turned through two right angles to function as a sinistral while its lower element (2') remains in the lower fringe. The turning of these two wefts forms the corner while the turn of (2) forms the commencement of the right edge. b, Above the turn of (2) the double dextral weft (3 and 3') has reached the right edge. The upper element (3) is turned in to act as a sinistral weft while the lower (3') is left projecting beyond the edge to act as a dextral fringe element. The right edge is continued upwards to complete the working section by turning in the upper element of the next dextral weft (4) to act as a sinistral while the lower element (4') projects as a dextral fringe element of the double dextral wefts as they successively reach the right edge. The upper elements, however, which are turned in to form new sinistrals are single so fresh sinistral strips have to be added to them to make them double and provide the sinistral fringe element. c, From the last figure, the single sinistral strip (4") has been placed over the new sinistral (4) and included in the plaiting while its outer end provides the needed sinistral fringe element. Similarly the sinistral strips (5" and 6") have been added to the sinistrals (5 and 6) as they were turned in at the fight edge while their lower elements (5' and 6') continued on past the edge to form dextral fringe elements. The above technique is continued upwards as each working section reaches the right edge.
In commencing the next working section, the left edge has to be carried upwards from that part already formed by the left commencing corner. The technique is again identical with that in textile kilts except that a fresh set of page 269fringe elements is added to form two sets, as in the previous two edges. (See fig. 154.) Owing to the length of the soft fibrous wefts, the dextral and sinistral wefts are tied together in separate groups (fausa) to prevent their becoming entangled. The fausa are formed by twisting a group together loosely, folding them backwards and forwards from the top ends and catching the folds in a half hitch from the slack on the end towards the plaiting edge. All wefts are thus treated. The two fausa on the right of the working edge are released and folded again on the higher level on the left when the working edge reaches the next two fausa on the right. (See Pl. XXVIII, A.) The working edge is fairly long, but a short one is shown in figure 155 to emphasize the identity of the plaiting technique with the ordinary technique used with coconut leaflets and coarser pandanus wefts.
Figure 154.—Shaggy garment, left edge, and second set of fringe elements:
a, the left edge of the commencing corner is shown by the turns of the wefts (2-5). The provision of fringe elements commences with the double sinistral (6, 6'), in which the upper element (6) is turned in to define the edge and act as a dextral while the lower element (6') is left protruding as the usual fringe element of the first set. b, The second set of fringe elements is provided by adding fresh strips successively to the dextral wefts as they are turned at the left edge. Thus, with turned in dextral (6) in position, the fresh strip (6") is laid on the dextral with its end projecting to provide the fringe. c, The method of turning the upper elements of the double sinistrals and adding fresh elements to the turned in dextrals is continued for the depth of the working section and with each successive working section for the full depth of the garment. Thus the wefts (6' to 10') belong to the first series formed by the lower elements of the double sinistrals, while the wefts (6" to 10") provide newly added fringe elements. The technique in shaggy garments is a combination of the two methods of providing fringe elements in textile kilts (fig. 148 a and b), except that in adding the dextral set, the fringe element is placed above the dextral weft instead of below as in figure 148 b.
The feature of the shaggy garments is the close covering of tags over the whole of the outer surface. The tags consist of fibrous strips of the same material as the wefts and they are placed in position at the working edge during the process of plaiting. The attachment of tags thus commences with the first working section and is continued throughout with each successive working section. Three methods of adding tags are in use:page 270
(1) The first method consists of leaving out a length of new sinistrals as they are placed in the shed at the working edge. The method has been described with textile kilts in figure 148, c. Though used as a fringe in textile kilts the method is also used to augment the tags in shaggy cloaks. (See fig. 155) The upper ends of shortening sinistrals may be left out also on the upper surface of the garment and the same applies to both ends of dextral wefts. Thus, where in ordinary plaiting the ends of wefts are cut off close to the edge of the last crossing weft, in shaggy garments they are purposely left long to assist in ornamentation.
Figure 155.—Shaggy garment, working edge, and fausa.
A shortened working edge with 12 dextrals is shown, with the odd numbers down and the even numbers raised to provide the shed for the working sinistral (15). In the next movement, the top dextral (1) is dropped and the new dextral (13) picked up from below to maintain the, same number of working dextrals. The movement will cover the sinistral (15) while the next sinistral (16) will be placed in the new shed provided. In the next movement, weft (2) which will be top dextral, will be dropped and the dextral (14) picked up from below. Thus, the technique of actual check plaiting is the same as that used in plaiting mats. The method of adding new strips to a shortening sinistral weft is shown where the strip (15') is laid over the shortening sinistral (15) after it has been placed in the shed. The lower end of (15') is purposely left long and will project as a fringe element from below the dextral (12) when the plaiting movement is completed. Dextral wefts are also lengthened by laying a fresh strip over the shortening working dextral and keeping them together for a few movements. The sinistrals on the right of the working edge have been grouped in the fausa (20) and the dextrals separately in (21). Both fausa will be untied when the working edge reaches them.
(2) The loop method of attaching distinct strips seen in kava strainers and the single cord attachment of kilts (fig. 138) is also used in shaggy garments, in which the looped tags are attached to sinistral wefts at the working edge. A horizontal line of tags so attached is shown in Plate XXVII, B, and the detail in figure 156.
(3) The third and most-used method is attaching the tag by two turns around dextral wefts at the working edge as in figure 157.
Figure 156.—Shaggy garment, tag attachment single loop:
a, the working sinistral (1) has been laid in the shed at the working edge, the dextral (3) is the lowest of the raised series of working wefts, the tag strip (2) is doubled in the middle, and the loop so formed is passed under the working sinistral (1) just above the plaited portion defined by the dextral (4). The tags (5) on the left have been fixed in position during the previous movements of the plaiting edge. b, The loop of the tag (2) is opened out and the forefinger passed up through it; c, the forefinger passes over the sinistral (1), hooks around both limbs of the tag, and draws them both through the loop; d, the loop is drawn taut, pressed close against the crossing dextral (4) and in the next movement the lowest raised dextral (3, a) will pass above the loop which is included in the plaiting as shown on the left of (a). The tag loop (2) really rests on the recumbent dextral between (3) and (4) and therefore does not show on the under surface of the garment. With each plaiting movement, a tag is added as above and horizontal rows are formed.
Figure 157.—Shaggy garments, tag attachments, two-turn twist:
a, a horizontal row of tags (1) is shown attached to alternate dextrals and also an oblique row (2) attached in the same way. The sinistral (4) has been fixed by the plaiting movement and another oblique row of tags commenced on the working dextral (3), which will be the lowest of the raised series in the next plaiting movement. b, A tag strip (5) is passed under the working dextral (3), pulled along to its middle and a complete turn taken around the weft; c, a second complete turn is made around the weft (3) by the tag (5); d, the two turns are drawn taut. The turns are simple windings without any half hitch or knot. The turns are pushed down close against the last crossing sinistral (4). The tags are attached to the wefts of the raised series at the working edge. The next sinistral is laid in the shed and with the completion of the plaiting movement, the turns around the wefts will rest on the sinistral below. The next plaiting movement completely fixes the row of tags in their position on the garment.
The knotted braid tail, which marks the ending of all the technical processes used can always be found at one of the corners of the garment placed in the proper position for study. (See Pl. XXIX, A.) The fringe elements at all four edges are left as tag fringes without braiding.
Figure 158.—Shaggy garment, left upper corner, upper edge, and right upper corner finish:
a, the left edge of the last working section is raised in the orthodox way and the strip (8) is the last dextral fringe element added. The upper element (1) of the next sinistral weft makes two half turns over the next sinistral (2) and passes back into the plaiting on the working sinistral which it covers. The lower element (1') is left out as a fringe element. The upper element of the next weft (2) is treated in a similar way and its lower element (2') remains as a fringe element. The left upper corner is thus turned by the usual technique. The upper edge, commenced by the turn of the weft (2) is continued by turning down the upper element of the dextral wefts as they reach the edge, while the lower elements are left projecting to provide the dextral series of fringe elements (3' to 7'). The working sinistrals continue beyond the edge to supply the sinistral series of fringe elements (3" to 6"). Variation occurs as to which elements are placed first in the shed at the working edge. Thus the upper elements of the three dextrals next to (2) — (3, 4, and 5, concealed by the plaiting)—were placed in the shed first and covered by the working sinistrals (3", 4", and 5"). In the next movement, however, the working sinistral (6") is placed in the shed first and the upper element (6) of the next dextral turned down upon it while the lower element (6') is shown projecting in the fringe series. By either method, the working edge is continued towards the right. The two series of fringe elements are provided as described and there is no need to add fresh fringe elements. The ends of the turned down dextrals are left as tags where they project below the lower end of the working edge; b, as the working section nears the right, the working edge narrows owing to the upper and right edges converging on each other. The lower ends of the turned-down dextrals pass through to join the fringe of the right edge. The crossing of the turned-down full dextral (4) and the working sinistral (5) in the last shed, leaves a working edge formed by three dextrals of which the weft (2) is raised and (1) and (3) are recumbent. c, the raised weft (2) is brought over the shed in a last movement and the three wefts are plaited in a three-ply braid tail and knotted. The braid effectively fixes the plaiting and prevents unravelling.
The completed garment is bleached by soaking in sea water and drying in the sun. Repeated washings in fresh water with the leaf of the fisoa (Columbrina asiatica) as soap results in a very white color. The white textile kilt (Pl. XXV, B) was treated in the same way. The fringes and tags are combed out with dry coconut leaflet midribs. The completed garment is bleached and not the unplaited material as Brigham (3, p. 94) inferred when he wrote that some garments were made "Usually of fine thread by pounding the bast and bleaching the fibre until it is white as well-cleaned fibre."
The garments in Bishop Museum range from 4 feet 6 inches, to 5 feet 10 inches in width and from 2 feet 9 inches to 3 feet 6 inches in depth. The plait ranges from 9 to 16 wefts to the inch. In the garment example figured in Plate XXVIII, B, the thick outer coating of tags has not been combed out well and it lacks the whiteness resulting from repeated washings. The garments are heavy and clumsy in appearance but are well made, considering the material.
Attention has been drawn to the tags being attached during the plaiting of the garment as they are more easily wound round wefts which have one end free. The subsequent plaiting fixes them in position. Brigham (3, p. 94) was in error when he stated that "Pile was put on after the mat was woven by passing a parcel of the fibres with a full turn about a mesh of the mat at suitable intervals …." In describing an 'ie sina in the Otago University Museum for comparison with New Zealand technique (38, pp. 40, 41), I figured the attachment of the tags as one complete turn around a crossing weft. While this was correct for the tags examined, the two-turn twist is by far the more common form of attachment.
The 'ie fau retains its natural color, which deepens to a yellowish brown ('ena'ena). As no artificial methods were used to change its color, the garment retains the name of the material in 'ie fau. The 'ie sina is made of fau pata but as the garment is bleached white by a special process its gets the name of 'ie sina from its white color (sina, white). Two other varieties of shaggy cloak are distinguished by a red and black color respectively but the names given to them are derived from the coloring process.
The red shaggy garment gets the name of 'ie ta'ele (ta, to treat; 'ele, red earth) from being stained with a mixture of red earth in a wooden bowl.page 274
The material appears to be fau tu. The technique is identical with the preceding shaggy cloaks and the dark red color gives it a fine appearance. (See Pl. XXIX, A.)
The black shaggy garment ('ie fuipani) according to Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 295) was stained black (uliuli) by being pressed down in the mud of a swamp. It is hung up to dry but away from the sun. Before a dance, the garments are sprinkled with coconut cream to make them shine. Samoans distinguish between drying an article in the sun (fa'ala) and drying in the air or a breeze away from the sun (fa'asavili). Direct heat from the sun would bake the mud on the stained cloak and cause it to flake off instead of soaking into the material. The term savili denotes a breeze as against a wind (matangi). No example was seen but the technique was probably identical with that of the three preceding varieties.
The shaggy garments are worn around the waist as skirts and kept in place with a cord or bark cloth belt. They are heavy and uncomfortable to wear for any length of time in a tropical climate, but are used only during ceremonial to denote rank and status. The 'ie sina was essentially the garment of the village maid and women of high rank. It was also used in the proof of virginity custom. In social value, the 'ie sina is almost, but not quite, in the same class as fine mats. Owing to their being less in number than fine mats, they are sometimes preferred during ceremonial to demonstrate that the family possesses them.