Fiji is a culture renowned for its arts and crafts, often one of the biggest selling tourist souvenirs for visitors on holiday in Fiji. Artefacts are not only made for tourist trade but for local use as well as during Fijian ceremonies. The most common pieces are woven baskets and mats as well as carved wooden figures which are readily available at the handicraft markets and wharves.
Weaving materials are primarily sourced from coconut and pandanus leaves, the taming of which takes a surprising amount of work, hence their special place with the Fiji people and tourists alike.
The pandanus leaves are thick and strong with spines all over and need to be gathered, stripped of their thorns, boiled, dried out, bleached, flattened and then trimmed before being stored in rolls. To create traditional Fijian keepsakes, the rolls are then cut into ribbons and then woven into the impressive mats synonymous with the Pacific.
The coconut palm is also used for many purposes especially weaving due to its coarse and fine applications. The frond is taken with leaves still attached then split by its stem to reveal rows of leaves attached to the flexible strip. It is then quickly woven either by itself or with others to make baskets and hats or strong mats.
Taa is also one of the Pacific's finest materials and is only produced in very small quantities. After a laborious task, a thin white film emerges from the new, young leaves which tightly curl inside the spine at the top of the palm. This material will eventually be used to produce delicate white bags and hats.
Tapa cloth is another of the Pacific's most popular materials used for both tourist trade and in ceremonies. The cloth involves a lot of preparation and originates from the Mulberry tree. Once stripped, dried and beaten into a fine cloth, the tapa is then decorated with artwork and worn traditionally as clothing. Growing in popularity with contemporary art, tapa can now also be found in fine wall hangings, cards, wrapping and other decorations.