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Life skills as a child

Losalini Vuki
Friday, December 08, 2017

It was customary for Polau Mutia to master the art of weaving and craft making as a child. Back in her island of Tuvalu, girls like Mrs Mutia, learnt how to weave either a basket or tray within three days as soon as they reached puberty.

Under the supervision of a mother or grandmother, they would make sure the task given was completed one way or another. With links to Kiribati, she spends most her time doing what she loves — weaving at the Suva Handicraft Centre.

At the age of 18, Mrs Mutia said she was already in the big city paving her way through a busy world.

"Pacific island weaving is all similiar," she said.

"Our mothers have been doing it, now us and so we should try to teach our kids so they too can carry on the tradition to their children and grandchildren. Otherwise, everything would be lost and forgotten."

"Now that all my children have migrated and I live on my own, I come to the stall every Monday to Saturday and when I'm free — I do enjoy and love what I do."

For Mrs Mutia, the works of her hands has been the source the income for her and her family.

"Before, I used to sell almost all my handicraft when the tourist boat berths at the wharf, but now it's the opposite," she said.

"You hardly see tourists come into our stalls nowadays. Most of us don't earn as much as we use to get from these tourists who come by ship even though they come every week and sometimes even two or three times a week. This is not a fixed thing I look forward to every week and when a customer comes in and buys then that's how we make a sale. Most of our sale comes from our orders and more often locals are the ones who buy from us. Sometimes within a week, I don't sell anything at all, but when since it's the busy period, we make a few profits along the way."

Today at the age of 70 Mrs Mutia is one of the suppliers of woven items to hotels from the islands such as Yanuca, Kadavu and Laucala.

She adds although the orders aren't often, she would only make a profit only when the need for order comes up.

"These resorts they don't order to sell, they order to use," said Mrs Mutia.

"Other than that, we get orders from different places and people who just drop by our stall. The only thing we struggle with is competition with other craft shops."

Her only advice to young people is to learn how to weave more to carry on the traditional hand works and crafts of our ancestors.

"This is part of who we are," she said.

"It's part of what identifies us and where come from."

Mrs Mutia is part of the Fiji Arts Council. Her stall fee per week is $45.60.

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