Fibre

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205
Country: Fiji
Basketry from Rabi island,northern Fiji. Made with pandanus and bamboo.

The use of natural fibres in Fijian culture is so pervasive and ingrained into the very fabric of life in Fiji before contact. Fibres from a wide variety of endemic plant species have a diverse range of uses, from boatbuilding to the construction of bores (the traditional Fijian house). Weapons and clothing, baskets for food collection and fishing nets and traps, hunting traps and marking of rank in hierarchy with the kinds of body adornment and clothing—all are made with local plant and tree fibres. In pre-contact, and to some degree in contemporary Fiji, the system of trade was barter, whereby different provinces and places were known for producing a certain type of products. To this day this tradition remains of certain regions of Fiji still produce these cultural products.

The island of Vatuline in the southern part of the group of island in Fiji is famed for the white masi that they produce. Masi is the bark of the Mulberry tree that is stripped and processed. It was used in ceremonial clothing for special occasions and also highly regarded as a form of customary gift. It was usually stored and given as gifts in ceremonies of marriage, funerary gifts and other forms of cultural occasions. It is these kinds of high quality cultural products that fosters trade and relationships in Fiji and continues to do so in modern day Fiji. Another product that was highly prized is magimagi. This is a very fine rope-like fibre product that is made from processed coconut husk. It is used in a variety of different ways. Magi magi is made in the Lau group of island, in the northern part of Fiji, very close to Tonga. This cultural product too was a sought after product that fostered trade and traditional relationships that continues today.

Basketry from Rabi island,northern Fiji. Made with pandanus and bamboo.

Today, many cultural products made from natural fibres still remain within the Fijian consciousness. Most Fijian now buy these products with a very small and dwindling number of crafts people engaged in the process of production. The tourism industry in Fiji is currently the biggest income earner. Cultural products are a feature. However, its cultural meaning and significance is lost in the commercial translation. Fiji has 14 different provinces, each with its own dialects, traditions, ideas of personhood, beliefs and traditions. They have their own bags, weaponry, fishing nets and traps, that are unique to other islands. The current challenge from a commercial perspective is to develop a branding that reflects the deep cultural value of the product.

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