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Samoan Material Culture


The soles of the feet of the Samoans became so thickened from childhood that no protection is needed for ordinary locomotion. On occasion, however, sandals (se'e vae) are used to protect the soles from particularly sharp coral while wading inside the reef. The method of attaching by cords passed between the toes causes considerable chafing to the more tender skin between the toes and on the dorsum of the foot, especially when coral sand gets under the cords. For this reason, sandals were not much in favor. I have seen page 314men and women walking about among sharp coral with apparently no inconvenience.

Sandals are thus said to be used principally to protect the soles when
Figure 168.—Sandal (se'e vae), technique in fau bast:

Figure 168.—Sandal (se'e vae), technique in fau bast:

a, a strip of bast an inch wide, is wound loosely around the hand for about five turns to form the outer boundary element of the sandal. The size of the loop suits the size of the foot, the length being from the heel to the root of the toes. b, A second strip (2) is wrapped transverse around the folded first strip, commencing where the first strip ended (3); c, the strip is con tinued on with overlapping seizing to bind the folds of the first strip together and thickeni the whole border loop; d, having completed the round of seizing, the second strip, is carried down the middle line of the now laterally compressed loop (1) around its far end (4) and back to the starting point; e, the working strip (2) is brought around the near end of the oval (1) and then around the double middle strip; f, the working strip is bound around both middle strips for their full length and then brought back to the middle, where it makes a transverse turn around each side border of the oval; g, the two side radials are then wrapped closely in turn and a long three-ply braid of fau bast (5) is laid against the two sides of the oval in such a way as to form a loop at one end (6) The working strip (2) is run spirally to midway of one of the long radials and passed from side to side around the rim and the braid, interlacing at the same time with the long radial. h, The working strip is then manipulated so as to fill in the oval binding element with transverse turns. The strip passes around the rim and braid at each side and alternately above and below the middle longitudinal radials. Fresh strips are added by wrapping the commencing end around the finishing end of the old strip at the rim as in (b, c). k, As the transverse turns get closer together, the pointed stick is used to open a way between the previous turns. The end of the working strip is also folded together to form a point and bound with a thin strip of fibre (7). This stiffens and narrows the end so that it may be pushed through the holes made by the stick. Additional transverse turns are made with the aid of the stick between those already made and the working strip carried back to the other end. Some sandals end at this stage. m, Short turns may be taken around the transverse turns by working down the longitudinal on either side of the middle. When no more can be made, the sandal is completed. The loop (6) is drawn out to a suitable size as the cords (5) may be pulled in either direction. n, The sandal is worn by placing the loop end forward and bringing up the loop cord between the big and second toes and the fourth and fifth respectively. This differs from the Cook Islands and New Zealand method where the loop is towards the heel. The two tree cords at the other end of the sandal are crossed behind the heel, brought forward through the toe loop and returned on the same sides to pass around the cords near their points of emergence from the sandal. They then pass forwards to be tied over the dorsum of the foot.

page 315they have cracked, as often happens with the thick, hard skin. It was further stated that since free medical attention is now readily available throughout both groups, sandals are seldom made. The examples for this description had to" be specially made, as there were none in use.

Three kinds are made; from fau, lau'a'a, and pulu respectively.

Sandals of fau bast (se'e vae fau) are made with a particular technique, but the other two are makeshift articles. The material required is a quantity of fau bast strips about an inch wide and a stick a little thicker than a lead pencil sharpened at one end. (See fig. 168.) The sandals are always made short, coming to just beyond the ball of the foot, with the toes projecting unsupported in front. (See Pl. XXXV, A, 2, 3.)

A temporary form of sandal (se'e vae lau'a'a) is made from a couple of sheets of the fabric-like material at the base of coconut leaves (lau'a'a). (See Pl. XXXV, A, 4.) The material is soft and affords protection to a cracked sole. They do not last long but are easily made (fig. 169).

Figure 169.—Sandal of coconut lau'a'a:

Figure 169.—Sandal of coconut lau'a'a:

a, the sheets are folded into a rectangle 10 inches wide by 5 inches long and a long strip of fau bast (4) is looped and laid over the middle third (2) of the material. b, The left third (1) is folded over the strip and then the right third (3). The foot is placed upon the folded material and the toe loop (4) and heel cords (5) attached as with the fau sandal.

Figure 170.—Sandal of coconut husk (pulu):

Figure 170.—Sandal of coconut husk (pulu):

a, the outer skin of the section is cut transversely across the middle line for a depth of not quite 0.25 inches. The sides of the segment are trimmed so that the thickness here is a little over a quarter of an inch. The cut therefore at the side edges does not come quite to the upper surface. b, The anterior half of the segment is now bent towards the inner surface and levered forward so as to split forward slightly along the bottom (1) of the cut. The direction of the split is at right angles to that of the cut. c, Still holding the anterior half bent to open up both the cut and the split, a strip of fau bast (2) is passed down into the cut and worked forward into the split. The first half is then straightened back, the edges of the cut come into perfect apposition and the fau strip is held in the split. The strip has thus been buried and so protected from being worn-out if simply tied around the outside of the husk. d, The foot is placed on the upper surface of the sandal and the two ends (2) of the strip may be drawn tight over the dorsum and tied.

page 316

Another temporary form (se'e vae pulu) is made of coconut husk pulu (Pl. XXXV, A, 1). A longitudinal slice of husk, about 7 inches long by 4 inches wide, is cut off level to fit the foot. The section is naturally oval with thin edges and deepening to a little over an inch in the middle. The method of attaching the fau bast tying strip is shown in figure 170.