Laufatu o le lalaga
Weaving is a common practice across the Pacific region. Using leaves from a variety of plants, for example, coconut palm and pandanus, to create resources and items as much for functional, everyday use such as food baskets, mats, fans, hats, fishing traps, nets, and roof thatching, as it is for ceremonial practices such as fine mats and ceremonial clothing.
Weaving is an intergenerational skill and is an expression of Pacific identity and creativity. Children learn about weaving from an early age as they are involved in everyday activities in the village.
Traditionally weaving was taught within families usually by an aunt, mother, or grandmother. As Pacific families migrate to Aotearoa they share their specialist knowledge and skills about weaving to sustain this cultural practice. Weaving is an opportunity for children to learn through the language and cultural narratives of the weavers. Mathematical concepts such as over, under, through, across, and counting the weaving pattern are valued in the weaving process.
Different Pacific Islands are renowned for their specialist weaving practices, for example, ta’ovala, a mat worn around the body from Tonga and ietoga, the fine mats gifted at ceremonial occasions such as weddings and funerals and special village/church events in Samoa. Whaka Ha’apai is a process of soaking branches in the sea and removing the bark to weave a waistband or folding to create flowers. It is unique to the Tongan island of Ha’apai.
Using a variety of woven items in early childhood environments affirms and connects children to their culture
How do we apply it in practice?
View the weaving video and consider how you are supporting Pacific learners to know their identities, languages, and cultures through weaving.
In this video, you will see and hear tamaiti and kaiako involved in meaningful weaving experiences from different Pacific cultures.
Kaiako share the ways they embed weaving in everyday experiences and routines with tamaiti as part of their local curriculum design. They promote the use of cultural artefacts (fine mats, baskets, dancing skirts) to enhance tamaiti involvement in weaving experiences in authentic ways. Kaiako of Pacific heritages also share weaving from their cultures with tamaiti.
Ideas for your service
A significant feature relating to the transferring of cultural knowledge through weaving is the concept of tei laititi-tei matua, like the Cook Island Māori concept of tuakana-teina, where older tamaiti take on the role of teaching younger tamaiti. It is critical that kaiako honour the personal cultural knowledge and experiences that Pacific tamaiti bring with them to the early childhood service and provide opportunities for tamaiti to use this knowledge to strengthen their sense of their identities, languages, cultures, belonging, and wellbeing.
- Consider the ways you plan your environment to promote and foster the use of woven items, for example, baskets to store and present resources in your service.
- Invite an elder, family member, or tamaiti to talk about how weaving materials may be prepared in the islands. Sometimes this is by soaking, scraping, or beating the leaves to make them more pliable. Tamaiti can have a go, using small rocks or mussel or paua shells, and see how the leaves change as they are worked.
- Provide square wooden frames with strings attached vertically. Tamaiti can weave smaller flexible objects like leaves, feathers, or ribbons through the strings.
- As a team, learn about cultural practices that involve woven objects. Think about the significant activities you were involved in as a child, or that tamaiti are involved in now. In the video, the Aoga Amata involves the children in creating a pattern of chicken feathers across the fine mat and then carrying it as if at a funeral or wedding and kaiako describing the process of Whaka Ha’apai.
- Many Pacific cultures have woven objects that are presented or used on special occasions, like ietoga and ta’ovala. Letting tamaiti explore these rituals means they are making sense of what they see adults do, as well as seeing the connection with weaving in their lives here in Aotearoa.
- Think about the ways you can invite children and their fanau to share cultural resources and materials they may no longer be using and repurpose them for an art activity.
- Use resources that are easy for you to source in your local community, and substitute when you can’t get authentic materials. Create a collection point at the centre where families can leave found materials that you could use for arts.
In your service:
- What regular opportunities do children have to experience weaving from their own and other cultures?
- How can you engage in conversations with tamaiti to grow their awareness of weaving in their surroundings?
- What do you know about specialist weaving practices from different Pacific Islands? Samoan ietoga (fine mats), Tongan ta’ovala (belt worn around the body), Cook Island ‘ei katu (woven headband) Niuean pulou (hat), Kahoa hihi (woven necklaces), Tokelauan titi (woven dance skirt)? How can you share this with tamaiti to connect them to the weaving practices from different Pacific Islands?
- How are you intentionally bringing children's attention to mathematical concepts, for example, repeating patterns, counting weaves, and sorting threads?
- How could you discover the aspirations parents and families have for their tamaiti in the arts?
These reflective questions and provocations remind us of the holistic ways that the four key Pacific art areas are interconnected and woven together.
Knowing your tamaiti and their families and community well, and allowing them to explore their languages, cultures and identities through weaving, gives them the tools to explore their connections to the past as well as where they are right now.
Each Pacific heritage has its own unique way of looking at the world - explaining the world through woven objects is common to all pacific cultures. The continuation and growth of weaving over time and their continued use in rituals and everyday life has helped to keep languages, cultures, and identities alive.
Papata pē, ka na’e lalanga
It may be coarse in texture but it was woven
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