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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands

Women's Titi

Women's Titi

The woman's garment (titi), of leaf strips reaching from the waist to the knees, derives its name from the ti leaf from which it is made in Samoa and other parts of Polynesia. In Tokelau, it was made of kanava bark strips, prepared as for the malo, or of coconut leaves. The coconut leaflets were cut from green leaves and soaked in fresh water to soften them until the tougher outer layer of the leaflets could be split from the soft inner layer. The outer surface was made into the titimatu, worn in the daytime and while working. The softer portion was made into the titi fai fekau, worn for sleeping and for festive attire. Lister (14) states that the better titi were also made of kie pandanus. Titi were made very thick with strips secured to a braided belt or plaited girdle around the waist. Wilkes (34) describes them as being “well oiled and perfectly pliable, resembling a bundle of straw, tied about the loins. It was impossible to conceive a more unwieldy and ridiculous dress.”