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Ethnology of Tongareva

Lauhala Mats

page 130

Lauhala Mats

For making mats lauhala (rail hara) is treated in the usual Polynesian way by drying the green leaves in the sun, scraping them, and then rolling the half leaves, from which the midrib and serrated edges have been removed. The rolls are stored until plaiting commences, when they are split into wefts. The wefts are termed henu (Maori, whenu); the wide wefts, kiri maraea. Plaiting with single strips of material is patahi; with double wefts, parua. Small mats used for resting are piritua; large mats for sleeping, moenga.

A large mat in Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 14 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 6 inches, was probably made to order for some European houses. The Tongarevan mat would be much smaller, as mats are not made to cover the whole floor space. Two strips of lauhala are placed together to form double wefts which average 0.5 inches in width. The plaiting stroke is the check, and the technique of commencing, plaiting, and finishing is similar to that of the Samoan papa mats (29, p. 214).