- Accession No.
- Date Created
- Dimensions A
13.3 x 36.7cm (diam., irreg.)
- Media Category
Woven banana fibre over coconut midrib, bark cloth
- Place Created
- Credit Line
Moka Utatao, who was born on Niue Island in 1944, learnt weaving from an early age from her mother and grandmother.(1) Utatao later moved to Auckland, New Zealand where she met Niuean weaver Hasapea Tapatuetoa (see Acc. nos 2004.031-034). Tapatuetoa's mother was a member of the local women's club in Niue that had made floor coverings and storage baskets with coconut frond, known as fa. Before moving to Queensland, Australia from New Zealand, Tapatuetoa lived on Niue for 38 years.
Utatao relocated to Brisbane in 2003 and, with Tapatuetoa, established a local weaving group 'Vakapaopao', which translates to 'a canoe for the women to ride on and continue their good way'. Utatao and Tapatuetoa use a Niuean coiled knotting technique that is slightly different from that of their Samoan and Tongan neighbours, a double-faced weave.
The materials integrated in basketry, particularly in Utatao and Tapatuetoa's work, evolve from their different social and geographical circumstances. The inclusion of materials such as plastic bread bags, wool and synthetic raffia are a welcome alternative, not only for their accessibility, but also for their array of colours and design possibilities. The search for alternative materials, to the traditional, scarce pandanus leaf and fa, has gone beyond synthetic and manufactured options: weavers have explored the possibilities of native Australian plants like the Australian pandanus and banana frond as shown in the work Hat. For Hat Utatao has used the natural colours of the frond to ensure longevity, as dyeing the banana fibre can make it brittle.
Preparing the raw fibres is a lengthy process: the banana frond for Hat involved a drying process of almost a month and the raw fibre was scraped with a spoon to smooth its texture. In Niuean and Samoan custom fa is stripped and placed in a water-filled drum with coconut husks. After several months (time may vary), the fibre is dried and ready to use. This process is also used for dyeing the fibre. The addition of 'Copperleaf' taken from the 'Acalypha Wilkesiana' plant (more commonly referred to as the 'Copperbush') enables the fa to take on a dark black colour.(2)
1. Utatao, Moka, Telephone conversation with Eliza Cole, 17 June 2004.
2. Cole, Shari and Kulatea, Vitolia. Cultural Crafts of Niue: Pandanus Weaving. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Fiji, 1996, pp.2-3.
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