Ethnology of Tongareva
The craft of plaiting is still used in making such domestic necessities as roof sheets, wall screens, mats and baskets. The advent of Western culture has not appreciably affected the need for these articles. In the past plaiting also entered into the making of shoulder capes, as no form of weaving was used.
The materials used are lauhala (leaves of Pandanus; Tongarevan, rauhara) and coconut leaves. The Pandanus is evidently of one species which grows wild throughout the islands, and no particular species is cultivated, as in the Cook Islands. Lauhala floor mats are made, and the mention of them by Lamont (15, p. 114) proves that lauhala was used in plaiting before post-European contact with other islands. The fibers of the aerial roots are also used in conjunction with coconut leaflets in a particular form of mat. The coconut leaf (nikau) supplies the material for roof sheets, wall screens, baskets, and even some kinds of sleeping mats. The leaflets (kota) form convenient wefts; the midrib (pararaha) to which these are attached provides an already fixed commencent edge for the plaiting. In some articles the complete page 124 midrib (pararaha) is utilized, and in others a strip bearing the leaflets of one side is split off from the main midrib. The leaflets may be opened out to their full width during plaiting, or kept closed. The “open leaflet” wefts have the leaflet midrib running down the middle of the weft; they are wide; and the weft is the natural thickness of the leaflet. In the “closed leaflet” the leaflet midrib forms one edge of the weft, which is thus half the width of the open leaflet, but twice its thickness. The use of closed or open leaflets effects the plaiting technique and gives the craftswomen a certain freedom to create different articles for specific uses.
In plaiting, two sets of crossing wefts have to be provided, which, starting from the same commencing line, have to be crossed diagonally to right and left. The wefts running toward the right are termed “dextral,” and those to the left, “sinistral.” In crossing, the wefts are passed alternately above and below one weft in check plaiting or alternately above and below two or more wefts to form “twilled” plaiting. With the open leaflets check plaiting is used, and with the closed leaflets twilled plaiting is used. In making the Tongarevan plaited articles, the twilled-two is the only twilled technique used, but it is usual for the plaiter to commence with one or two rows of checks to fix the wefts in position, and then to complete the article in twilled-twos.
In the natural coconut leaf the leaflets are directed obliquely out and toward the tip end of the leaf. The plaiter places the leaf strip transversely with the midrib strip toward her and the natural upper surface of the leaf up. A strip from the right side of the leaf will, in this position, have the leaflets directed naturally toward the left at an oblique angle to form natural sinistral wefts. A midrib strip from the left side of the leaf has the leaflet directed in the opposite direction, and the leaflets form natural dextral wefts. In plaiting with the leaflets from one side of a leaf the alternate leaflets have to be bent at right angles to their normal direction to provide the crossing elements required. If only one article is required at the time, the plaiter cuts off a section of coconut leaf of the required length from a part not too near the butt or the tip, in order that the leaflets may be even and long. She takes the left side of the leaf in preference to the right and splits off the strip, which, when placed in position before her, provides a set of natural dextrals. It is easier to work from left to right with naturally directed dextral wefts.
Commencing on the left, the plaiter interlaces the adjacent wefts until she gets a sufficient depth to form a convenient working section. The right edge of the working section will be termed the working edge. It is composed of a number of dextral wefts termed working dextrals, which are separated into page 125 two sets by the left hand: alternate ones, in check plaiting; and alternate twos, in twilled-two plaiting. One set of working dextrals is left recumbent, whereas the other set is raised. Into the shed formed by separating the two sets a single sinistral weft is laid by the right hand. The working edge is thus obliquely inclined upward and to the left from the commencement edge formed by the midrib strip, and it is defined by the last sinistral weft (working sinistral) placed in the shed. The next movement consists of dropping the top raised working dextral, picking up the recumbent dextral below it, and so alternately dropping and picking up the two sets of working dextrals from above, downward. When the two sets have thus changed position the last added sinistral will have been fixed in the plaiting. The last movement besides fixing the sinistral weft has, however, prepared a shed for the next sinistral. After each movement the next two leaflets to the right are added to the working edge. Of these two, the one on the right forms the sinistral and has to be bent with the right hand over the leaflet on its left, which thus forms the lowest of the working dextrals. In Tongareva the new sinistral is passed over the new dextral; and it necessarily follows from the method observed at the start that the lowest of the working dextrals from the last movement is raised. The newly added dextral must be left recumbent, and this has been done by crossing the new sinistral above it. A convenient number of working dextrals in check plaiting with the open leaflet is six or eight. With each movement the top dextral is dropped and ceases to act as a working dextral in the working section being plaited. The new dextral added from below brings the number of working dextrals to normal, and so the working section works across to the right with the same number of working dextrals in each movement. The depth of the working section remains the same throughout.
In check plaiting with the open leaflet the one side of the coconut leaf midrib forms the commencement edge. The open leaflet makes a weft wide enough for a close surface, which, however, on drying, shows spaces between the wefts. Because of the one thickness of the leaf the article is not strong and is soon discarded. However, material is abundant and manufacture simple, and articles made with the open leaflet are only meant to serve the immediate purpose. As other needs arise, fresh articles are quickly made. (See raurau basket, fig. 15.)
The closed leaflet is used to make stronger articles which are used for a longer period. The closed leaflet, however, is only half the width of the open leaflet, and if the method of crossing alternate leaflets from one side of the leaf midrib were used, the spaces between the wefts would make the plaited article too open, so that small objects would drop through. To get a close plait with the closed leaflets the two sets of leaflets from each side of the page 126 leaf are used. All the leaflets from one side form the dextrals, and all the leaflets from the other side form the sinistrals. There are two forms of commencement edge which make this possible, the full midrib commencement and the two-strip commencement.
The full midrib commencement (fig. 13) is used in making wall screens. The leaflets from one side of the midrib function in the normal direction as dextrals or sinistrals, and those from the opposite side are bent across the midrib and interlaced in the opposite direction.
Figure 13. Plaiting technique, full midrib commencement. a, full leaf section with natural dextrals (1, 2) on far side; leaflets on near side form sinistrals, doubled over midrib and passed obliquely under its opposite dextral; first dextral (1) raised by left hand while opposite leaflet (1′) is bent over midrib and passed under raised dextral with right hand. b, next dextral (2) raised, but dextral (1) above it left down to comply with check technique; opposite leaflet (2′) bent over leaf midrib and passed under dextral (2) and over 1; next dextral (3) raised; opposite leaflet (3′) becomes working sinistral. c, check technique has been established and full working edge of six dextrals (1–6) built up; top dextral dropped with each movement and new dextral picked up; leaflet from near side of leaf midrib placed in shed formed as sinistral; first two sinistrals (1′, 2′) are twisted in at left edge to show how side edges are formed with half-twist of leaflet as they are turned in to function as dextrals. Plaiting carried on for full length of leaf segment.
The two-strip commencement (fig. 14) is used in the better types of basket. The midrib is split on either side so that strips bearing the leaflets are separated from the intermediate thick part of the midrib, which is discarded. To form a better edge, the leaflets of each strip, following their natural direction, are twisted over the leaflet immediately in front. The two strips are then placed together, the sinistral bearing strip above the other.
The plaiter keeps an extra section of coconut leaf beside her. In plaiting baskets with the closed leaflet, if she finds that the space between two wefts in the same direction is too great for neat plaiting, she tears a leaflet off from the required side of the leaf section and includes it as an extra weft by placing the butt end between the two midrib strips forming the commencement edge. (See fig. 17, a.)page 127
Side edges are formed by turning in the sinistrals on the left and the dextrals on the right as they successively reach the left or right end of the plaiting. The weft may be twisted over as it is turned in, thereby exposing the opposite side of the leaf, or with closed leaflets they may be bent in directly without turning the weft over.
Figure 14. Plaiting technique, two-strip commencement. a, leaflet twisted forward in natural direction under leaflet (2) in front, then 2 under 3 and 3 under 4; twisting continued toward right throughout length of leaf. b, strip from other side of leaf dealt with similarly but in opposite direction, from right to left, which follows natural direction of leaflets; leaflet 1 under 2, and 2 under 3, and so to end of strip. c, the two strips placed together with sinistral-bearing strip (1) above other; sinistral strip (1) cut away on right to show twisted dextral strip (2) beneath; the two sets of leaflets now cross each other naturally and are plaited in check as shown on left of figure.
The finish of the plaiting is formed by braiding the leaflets in three-ply. If the finish is an edge, such as the rim of the raurau baskets, all the weft ends are included in one course of a three-ply braid. Where the finish forms the functional bottom of a basket the weft ends from both sides of the basket form a double quantity which cannot be neatly braided in one course. The sides are brought together, and, holding the plaiting with one end away from the worker, it will be found that on each side one set of wefts inclines toward the plaiter and the other set away from her. Commencing at the far end, the wefts inclining towards the worker on either side are plaited in the usual three-ply braid. On reaching the near end, the basket ends are reversed. It will be found that the remaining set of wefts on either side is now inclined toward the worker. The end of the braid, which is now at the far end, is doubled over, and the braid is continued toward the worker by plaiting in the remaining wefts alternately from either side. When the near end is reached the weft ends are continued on as a braid tail and the end knotted. This will be referred to as the two-course braid finish, in contrast with the single braid finish mentioned above. (For details of two-course braid finish see 29, pp. 191, 192.)
Coconut Sheets, Screens, and Mats
For the coconut leaf roof sheet the leaf is cut into 5- or 6-foot sections and split down the middle of the midrib. The half leaf from the left side of the leaf is plaited from the left in the conventional way, as the leaflets form natural dextrals. The open leaflets are plaited in check for a depth of about ten inches, the side edges being turned in by the half-turn method. The far edge of the plaiting is formed by the simple crossing of the wefts. Sheets from the right side of the leaf are plaited from right to left, as the natural direction of the leaflets is sinistral. The right hand arranges them into sets of working sinistrals which form the plaiting edge, and the left hand bends the alternate leaflets in from the midrib edge to rest in the shed formed. The method is the same as that used in the Cook Islands and Samoa (29, p. 170).
The single wall screen (pataro) is made of a section of coconut leaf 3 or 4 feet long, with the leaflets left intact on either side. The commencement is the full leaf commencement (fig. 13) in check, but after one row of dextral checks the plaiting stroke is changed to a twilled-two in horizontal rows. The side edges are turned in with a half turn (fig. 13, c). The leaflets are kept closed, and the leaflet midribs form the right edges of both dextral and sinistral wefts. On reaching a depth of ten inches and after the twilled plait has been changed to two rows of check, the leaflet ends are finished off with a single three-ply braid. (For technical details of single three-ply braid finish see 29, p. 182.)
The double wall screen (pataro mangarua) is made by plaiting two wall screens of the single pataro type described above, but leaving the wefts free at the far edge when the depth is secured. The two sheets are then placed side by side with their unfinished far edges together in a line longitudinal to the worker. Of the two sets of crossing wefts that form the edges on either side, one set will be directed toward the worker. Commencing with those at the far end, the proximally directed wefts are plaited alternately from either side into a three-ply braid, and the wefts directed away from the worker are temporarily disregarded. When the braid reaches the near end, the wefts are continued on as a free tail and fixed with an overhand knot. The ends of the plaiting are now reversed, and the remaining set of free wefts on either side will be found to be directed toward the worker. A second braid is commenced at the far end, and the free wefts added alternately from either side. At the near end the wefts are continued on in a free braid tail which is tied at the end with an overhand knot. The braid tails at either end are doubled back under the plaiting, passed through under some of the wefts, and tucked away. (See pl. 2, A.)
The sitting mat (tapakau) is made from a coconut leaf section about 2 feet 6 inches long. The leaflet-bearing strips are separated from either side page 129 and the leaflets twisted over each other at the midrib strip as shown in figure 14. The strip with the natural sinistral wefts is placed above the other and fixed together by two rows of check. The body of the mat is plaited in horizontal twilled-twos, and the side edges are formed by turning in the wefts without twisting up the other surface. When the plaiting reaches a depth of about 15 inches the far edge is finished off with a three-ply braid made in one course. The end of the braid is continued as a free tail, fixed with an overhand knot, and tucked back through the plaiting. (See pl. 3.) Most mats are made of two separate strips from opposite sides of the leaf; but a strip double the length of the mat may be split off from one side of the leaf, and after the leaflets have been twisted the strip is doubled on itself to provide the crossing wefts. The tapakau is a short mat, and the tokotua back rest is used with it. This was the mat which Lamont says was used in the open spaces before the houses. Mats are also spread in numbers on the floors of houses, and the sleeping mat is laid on top of them.
The oven cover mat (toto umu) is made exactly like the sitting mat, except that some are shorter and deeper. (See pl. 2, B, C.) It is used as a cover (tapoki) over food that is placed in the oven (umu).
The sleeping mat (pakere rei) is the best coconut leaf mat made. None was obtained, but I was informed that it is exactly similar in technique to the Manihiki tapakau, made as follows:
Lengths of the younger aerial roots of the hala (Pandanus) are cooked in an oven and then chewed to separate the fibrous material. The fibrous material is dried in the sun and used to commence a three-ply braid. Coconut leaflets are jerked off from the sides of the leaf so as to leave strips of the fibrous midrib attached at their butt ends. The leaflets are kept closed, and the free edges are split off with the thumbnail to form narrower closed leaflet wefts. The butt end strip of the wefts is added to the three-ply braid of hala fiber, a weft being added alternately on either side as the braid ply comes in from that side. The butt strips are long enough to be included in the plies and so fix the wefts to a mesial braid keel, much like the initial commencing braid in baskets and certain mats in New Zealand. As the wefts are added, the midrib edges are kept always to the one side. The wefts are added to the mesial braid for the required length. The braid is continued as a free tail for a short distance and then knotted.
The keel is laid transversely in front of the plaiter, and the wefts on the far side are plaited in check for a couple of rows. The body is then plaited in twilled-twos, and the edges are formed by the direct bends without turning over the other surface. As the depth is approached the plaiting stroke changes to a check for a few rows. The finishing edge is formed by a single three-ply braid. The mat is then turned, and the wefts on the other side of the mesial braid are plaited to form a section similar to the first, with a single braid finishing edge. In the Manihiki mat the mesial braid is 45 inches long and the mat is 23.5 inches deep on either side.
The mat is well made and neat in appearance. It is spread over the ordinary tapakau sitting mats and used at night as a bed.
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).
All Tongarevan baskets or satchels are made of coconut leaf. None of the small satchels made of lauhala, so common in Manihiki, were seen, and if such are made, they are a modern innovation.
The unsplit midrib basket (raurau) for carrying food is in common use. (See pl. 4.) It is made from a section of unsplit coconut leaf in which the leaflets from both sides enter into the plaiting. The unsplit leaf midrib forms the bottom, and the upper edges are finished off with a three-ply braid which forms the rim. The first part of the technique consists of plaiting all the leaflets of one side of the leaf with a check stroke into a sheet, and the left and right side edges are turned in. The far edge is then finished off with a three-ply braid. (See fig. 15.)
The leaf is turned to place the unplaited leaflets on the far side of the leaf midrib, which is kept transversely before the plaiter. A second sheet to form the other side of the basket is now commenced. It is plaited with a check stroke like the first side, but the two ends are formed by interlacing leaflets through the side edges of the completed first sheet. The braid finish of the top is then completed. (See fig. 16.)page 131
Figure 15. Raurau basket made from 2-foot section of leaf and carrying 19 pairs of leaflets, first side. Plaiting commences on left side of leaf with leaflets forming natural dextrals; leaflets after first (1) dealt with in pairs; leaflet on right treated as sinistral by being bent over its pair mate, which remains in its natural direction as dextral; of first pair (2, 3) right leaflet (3) bent as sinistral over left leaflet (2) which continues as dextral; similarly, leaflet (5) bent over 4, and so throughout; left edge formed by bending first sinistral (3) with half turn forward over next sinistral (5), and so successively as sinistrals reach left edge; full working edge of eight dextrals thus formed when sinistral (9) is placed in its shed; depth of the plaiting is carried along toward right; when last sinistral (19) crosses last dextral (18) right edge is formed by turning in dextrals successively to act as sinistrals; dextrals 18, 16, 14, and 12 successively turned in to form right edge and check sheet completed. Top edge finished by commencing braid on left with first three wefts (9, 7, 11) which form the three commencing plies; remaining wefts successively added, dextrals (5, 3, etc.) entering braid on near side and sinistrals (13, 15, etc.) passing under braid and then over to enter braid with far ply; on reaching right, braid continued as free tail and finished off with single overhand knot.
Three types of twilled baskets are made, the taunga, kete, and tupono. All are made with closed leaflets; hence, the two leaflet-bearing strips from each side of the leaf are used to provide two natural sets of crossing wefts. The leaflets are twisted over each other at the midrib strip as in figure 14, a and b, and the two-strip commencement with the sinistral strip above is used as in figure 14, c. The free edges of the leaflet wefts are trimmed off to make the wefts of even width, and, should the spaces between wefts become too wide, extra single wefts are inserted to fill the spaces as they occur. The midrib strips form the rim of the basket. The baskets are plaited on the flat like a sheet, but the side edges are not defined as in the raurau basket. The free ends of the sinistrals on the left and of the dextrals on the right project beyond the plaited sheet, and they form two oblique side edges. As in the two-strip commencement (fig. 14, c), the two strips are fixed together by a single horizontal row of check dextrals, after which the plaiting stroke consists of a twilled-two. When the page 132 plaiting has proceeded deep enough the two ends are brought together and joined as in figure 17.
Figure 16. Raurau basket, second side and braid finish. a, shaded wefts (1′–5′) represent completed side edge of first side; natural direction of unplaited leaflets toward left thus forms natural sinistrals; plaiting commences on left with first leaflet (1) crossed over second (2) to act as dextral; subsequent plaiting follows this order, so that of each subsequent pair of leaflets the one on left turned over next on right to form dextrals; after being crossed by first dextral (1), first sinistral (2) reaches left side edge; first sinistral given half turn to bring it back into plaiting but passed under nearest weft (1′) of completed first side after the turn; next sinistral (4) reaches side edge, is turned and passed under nearest weft (2′) of completed side; similarly, sinistrals (6, 8, 10) necessarily turned and passed under appropriate wefts (3′, 4′, 5′) of completed side; depth of sheet now reached and working edge carried at this depth to right; when right edge is reached dextrals are successively turned in and passed under appropriate wefts of completed side in manner similar to left edge described; both ends of basket thus closed. Braid finish commenced on left by bending in free tail braid (20) of first side to tie along top edge of completed plaiting of second side; first three wefts (10, 8, 12) on left used to commence the three plies of second braid; weft (10) brought along lower edge of tail (20); sinistral weft (12) passes under tail to its far side; dextral (8) passes over weft (10) from near side; far weft (12) brought over tail and crossed over weft (8) to middle position; the three plies thus established. b, wefts dealt with in successive pairs consisting of sinistral and dextral; sinistral passes under tail (20) and new braid passes to far side, from which it enters braid with far ply while dextral directly enters near ply; sinistrals (12, 14) have entered alternate outer plies while next sinistral (16) is about to join third outer ply in middle position; dextral (6) has entered ply from that formed by first dextral (8) while next dextral (4) has entered alternate inner ply from 6; irregularity due to establishing commencement; wefts may enter successive or alternate plies to suit plaiter; tail (20) which lies at back of new braid is bound to it by turns of sinistral wefts which pass around it; when braid reaches end of tail it continues in same way, sinistrals passed under and around it to enter with outer plies; when right edge of basket is reached, plies plaited on in free braid tail which is knotted at end; free tail then interlaced through opposite side between wefts below its braided rim.
Figure 17. Twilled baskets, extra wefts and end join: a, right end of plaiting; b, left end. Space between sinistral wefts (1, 2) too wide so single closed leaflet (3) inserted as extra weft with butt end between the two midrib strips, plaited in usual way; sinistrals have all been twisted forward to left under weft in front; weft (20) on right being first to commence, twisting has no weft through loop formed between it and next weft; left end of plaiting (b) brought around in apposition to right end (a); free weft (4), passed through under loop formed by end weft (20) in a as indicated by arrow; two ends (a, b) drawn together; weft (4) passes through loop of weft (20), fixes join. Similar technique adopted with ends of dextral strip.
The projecting free ends of the wefts are dealt with by a three-ply braid technique so as to close the two sides together, and they form the bottom of the basket. To avoid confusion with a multiplicity of projecting wefts, the dextral wefts are put out of the way while the last working section is being plaited. In each movement of the last section, after the working sinistral is laid in the shed, the top dextral, instead of being discarded, is turned downward on the working sinistral and included under the top crossing dextral to keep it in the downward position out of the way. As a result, when the last working section is completed and has brought the basket to its full depth, only the sinistral set of wefts projects upward from the completed top plaited edge.
The plaited cuff is compressed to bring the sides together, and the line formed by the plaited edge on either side is placed longitudinally to the plaiter. Plaiting commences at the far end, and it is the object to close the patent line by crossing leaflets alternately from either side to form the plies of a three-ply braid.
To appreciate the Tongarevan methods, it is necessary to have in mind the Polynesian methods of closing the patent line at the bottom of baskets. page 134 Two Polynesian braid finishes of basket (satchel) bottoms are known to me, the single-course and two-course braid finishes. The single-course braid finish is used in rough baskets made with open leaflet wefts. With the bottom in position and the sides pressed together, the farthest sinistral and dextral of one side are crossed over the middle line as one ply. The farthest dextral and sinistral pair on the opposite side is crossed over the first ply as the second ply. The next pair of dextral and sinistral wefts on the first side is crossed over the second ply, as the third ply. As the back ply is alternately crossed over to the middle position, a pair of wefts from the same side as the ply is pulled taut and added to the ply, occupying the middle position. When the near end of the basket bottom is reached the bottom is not only closed, but all the free leaflet wefts from either side have been incorporated in the braid. Nothing now remains but to continue the plies in a braided free tail and to fix the ends with an overhand knot. The braid tail is pushed through the plaiting below to place the knotted end inside the basket. The leaflets are taken up in pairs, regardless of their direction, and pulled toward the worker, so that all of the leaflets are disposed of in one course. The method is quick, but the braid is thick and rough in appearance.
The two-course braid finish (fig. 18) is neater and more secure, and is used for the better baskets. One set of wefts from either side is selected and braided singly for one course. In braiding the first course the set selected from either side is that which inclines toward the worker. The basket is then reversed and the remaining weft sets on either side, which now incline toward the worker, are also plaited singly to form a second course of braid. With the dextral wefts turned down and the basket bottom in position, the projecting sinistrals on the right are directed toward the worker, and those on the left are directed away from the worker. For the first course, therefore, the projecting free wefts on the right are utilized, but those on the left cannot be. Nothing remains but to pull up the dextral wefts on the left as required. When freed, the dextral wefts will be found to be directed toward the plaiter. Plaiting commences at the far end by pulling the farthest free weft on the right across the middle line to form the first ply. The farthest turned down dextral on the left is freed and pulled across the first ply to form the second ply. The next free weft on the right is crossed over the second ply to form the third ply. The braiding proceeds. After the back ply is pulled into the middle position the next weft on that side is added to it, and the crossing proceeds alternately from side to side until the course is completed. As indicated, the dextral wefts on the left are freed successively as they are required. The free sinistrals on the left side are left projecting, care being exercised after the dextral is page 135 freed to see that it bears the plaiting relationship to the free sinistral that the plaiting technique demands. On reversing the basket after the completion of the first course, the remaining free projecting sinister wefts, now on the right side, are inclined toward the worker. The remaining set of turned down dextrals is on the left, and when freed, it is also directed toward the worker. Those wefts are braided singly from alternate sides to form the second course, which thus uses up all the wefts and securely closes the bottom of the basket. Variations in the manner of dealing with the two courses resulted in three forms of braid fiinish: the continuous, or single tail; the concealed two-tail; and the distinct two-tail.
Figure 18. Twilled baskets, two-course braid finish of bottom, side views: a, b, c, single tail; d, e, concealed two-tail; f, distinct two-tail. 1, far point of first course; 2, near point to plaiter. a, first course (3) has been completed; three plies (6, 7, 8) continued for few turns (9); remaining set of dextral wefts (4) turned down on right side and remaining set of sinistrals (5) projects upward and inclines away on left side of bottom. b, basket reversed by imagining worker at point 1; remaining sinistrals (5) on right directed toward worker, and turned down dextrals, now on left, also directed toward worker when freed; braid end (9) has been doubled over on first course (3); second course (10) formed by adding wefts from either side to plies (6, 7, 8) continued on from first course. c, on completion of second course (10), wefts continued on as single free tail (11) and knotted; two courses thus continuous without break except for turn over (9). d, from position in a, the three plies continued on to form free tail (11) which is knotted and doubled over (9) to lie on first course (3). e, remaining two sets of wefts plaited from far point (2) over top of doubled-over first tail (11) and on reaching near end (1) continued on as free tail (12) and knotted; thus each course terminated by braid tail, but one concealed under second course (10). f, first course finished off with braid tail (11), but left free instead of being doubled over as in d; second course (10) commenced at 2 and on reaching end continued on as free tail (12); thus the two tails distinct; all free tails pushed through into interior of basket.
In the three forms of two-course braid finish the full length of the free ends of the wefts is incorporated in the plies. In a finish not used in Tongareva the wefts, after two or more turns in the braid, are successively page 136 dropped so as to reduce the thickness of the braid. The ends are afterward cut off close to the braid.
The taunga basket is made from two strips from each side of a 20-inch section of leaf, so that when the strips are bent around to join the ends the basket is 10 inches long at the rim. The plaiting stroke is a twilled-two arranged in horizontal rows. The two-course braid finish is used at the bottom with the concealed two-tail technique (fig. 17, d, e; pl. 4, B).
The kete basket is larger than the taunga, but the technique is the same. The taunga is used as a container for pieces (ika tungatunga) of cooked fish. The fish is dried and kept for the days when fresh fish is not procurable, and is the correct diet complement to the hard takataka coconut. The larger kete is used as a container for freshly cooked whole fish. Any parts left over become ika tungatunga and are transferred to the taunga basket.
The tupono basket is larger than the kete and, on account of the length of the midrib rim and the shorter bottom, it is crescentic. (See pl. 3, C.) Variety in appearance is introduced by changing the direction of the horizontal twilled rows into vertical twills. On reaching the full depth, it is customary to change from the twill stroke into a row of checks to simplify the application of the two-course braid bottom. The two-course braid bottom follows the distinct two-tail technique (fig. 18, f). Except for the size, change of twill, and the variation in the braid bottom, the technique of the tupono is the same as that of the taunga and kete baskets.
The tupono is used for freshly caught fish, and small fish may also be driven or scooped up into it as if the tupono were a scoop net. The close plait of the baskets made with two leaflet-bearing strips renders the tupono effective as a fish scoop, whereas the wider interweft spaces of an open leaflet basket, such as the raurau, would allow small fish to escape. Similarly, the close plaiting of the taunga prevents small pieces of cooked fish from falling through. The coarser raurau is reserved for larger articles of food, such as coconuts. Technique and function affect each other reciprocally.
Because of the absence of the hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and the oronga, the bast of which is used extensively in the Cook Islands and Tahiti as material for lines and cordage, the Tongarevans use the fibrous husk of the coconut and the skin of the coconut leaf midrib. Long strips of the skin from the upper surface of the coconut leaf midrib (tari) at the butt end are torn off for ordinary tying and for stringing fish. The strip is beaten and twisted to render it soft and pliable. Thus prepared, it is used in thatching houses (ato i te hare) and also for climbing bandages. The fibers page 137 of the coconut husk (puru) are soaked and beaten to remove the interfibrous material. Sennit two-ply twisted cord (hau ato) is then made by rolling the two-plies on the thigh, with fresh strands added. It is used for fishing lines, nets, and in processes such as the thatching of the better forms of houses. Sennit three-ply braid (kaha) is also made from the treated husk fibers of the nut. The braid is used for lashing the planks of canoes together and for lashing adzes.
The coconut roof sheet is so widely distributed in Polynesia that it needs no comment.
The pataro single wall screen, with the full leaf commencement (fig. 13), is peculiar. The full leaf commencement is found in Manihiki but not in the Cook Islands. An almost identical article is made in Tahiti, where Handy (10, p. 66, pl. 10, c) describes it as a paua tarii used as a sitting mat. It is not found in Samoa.
The double wall screen (pl. 2) is similar to the hapuka wall screen of Aitutaki (28, p. 32) and the Cook Islands. It also resembles the Samoan carrying sheet (29, pl. 12, e). The technique, however, differs slightly in that the two-course braid, connecting the two half sheets, is dealt with by the distinct two-tail finish (fig. 18, f), whereas in the Cook Islands and Samoa the finish consists of the continuous single tail technique (fig. 18, c).
The sitting mat (tapakau), made in twill with a two-strip commencement (fig. 14), is not found in the Cook Islands or in Tahiti. The technique, however, is used in Manihiki for wall screens, doors, and sitting mats and carries the Tongareva wall screen name of pataro.
Plaited oven covers (pl. 2) are not found in Tahiti and the Cook Islands, but they are found in New Zealand. Plaited covers were probably adopted because of the absence of suitable large-leaved plants, which provided the oven covers in other Polynesian areas.
The technique used in making the sleeping mat (pakere rei) with the mesial three-ply braid joining the two halves of the mat is not found in the Cook Islands and Tahiti. It is present in Manihiki and New Zealand. In New Zealand most wefts of flax are long enough to make the ordinary mats by adding them only on one side of the commencement braid (27, p. 716), but if the wefts are short the mesial braid with wefts added alternately on either side is used, as in the mats of Tongareva and Manihiki.
In Manihiki the sleeping mat is termed tapakau, and in Samoa the coconut leaf with a mesial midrib join (29, pl. 16, c) is also tapa'au. In New Zealand the finer sleeping mats are takapau, a word in which two consonants have become transposed. It is evident, therefore, that the Tongarevans page 138 wrongly applied the term takapau to the small sitting mat and were forced to invent the name, pakere rei, for the sleeping mat. The presence of the mesial braid commencement shows an advance in technique and skill in dealing with the meager material available.
The raurau basket (pl. 4) with the unsplit midrib at the bottom is not found in the Cook Islands, but it is described by Handy (10, pl. 3, A) for Tahiti. The Tahitian basket differs in technique in that both sides are plaited in continuity, and the turned-in edges of the first side with the subsequent interlacing of the second side noted in Tongareva are absent. This type of basket was not made in Samoa or in the Cook Islands.
The twilled baskets are found in the Cook Islands, Tahiti, and Samoa. The smaller taunga baskets resemble the si'u ola baskets of Samoa (29, pl. 14, c) but have the concealed two-tail finish of the two-course braid at the bottom, whereas the Samoan basket has the distinct two-tail finish. The Tongarevan tupono is similar to the Samoan ola tu (29, pl. 14, B) except that it is not so deep. Both are used to catch fish. Both the Tongarevan and Samoan baskets represent a coarse stage of twilled plaiting, whereas those of the Cook Islands (28, fig. 163) and Tahiti (10, pl. 6, A) show an improvement in technique in which the wefts of the two-course braid bottom are dropped out and cut off to make a neater braid.
The open leaflet baskets with the full leaflet split, after the completion of the basket to form the rim, are common in Tahiti as the haakee pahai (10, pl. 3, B) and in the Cook Islands as the tapora (28, fig. 154). These baskets are absent in Tongareva and Samoa.
The lauhala (rauhara; Pandanus leaf) mats are simple and show little of the advanced decorative work of the Cook Islands, in which the twilled borders with overlaid plaiting in color have reached a high development. Decoration is confined to running a couple of weft lines of the thin anterior surface of hala leaf, dyed red, in overlaid plaiting to form a double row of red checks at wide intervals over the body of the mat. Two strips of lauhala to form double wefts are used. Plaiting is confined to mats for domestic use and did not develop into a widely used craft as in Manihiki and Rakahanga, where plaited mats, satchels, fans, and hats are beautifully made for local use and for presents. The Tongarevans, in recent times, have used pipi pearls as gifts and have not the extra need for plaited articles which stimulated the craft of plaiting in Manihiki and Rakahanga.