Mat weaving

Akosita Baleivuna usually weaves mats at her home in Nadi. Picture: SUPPLIED

Akosita Baleivuna operates a thriving business selling mats via social media platform Facebook. But the story behind how she got here is interesting and inspirational.

Ms Baleivuna said she learnt how to weave mats from her mother and grandmother while they were living on Vatoa Island, Lau.

She said her lesson began with helping her mother cut pandanus leaves, preparing them and following the painstaking process until they were ready to be weaved into mats.

“I count myself lucky that I was brought up in Vatoa and I learnt how to weave from mum and my bubu (grandmother),” the 49-year-old grandmother said.

She was educated at Vatoa Primary School and Ratu Sukuna Memorial School before finishing her studies at Sabeto Secondary School.

“After that I went to a Lautoka institute to study computing and completed my study after two years.

“After graduation I went for an interview and got a job at Sheraton Royal Denarau.

“While I was working there I met my husband.” The mother of six said she worked for 16 years at the resort and then resigned in 2004.

“After I left work I stayed home and looked after my children and started a small business selling seafood at the Nadi Municipal Market.

“I bought seafood and delicacies like nama, lumi, vasua, kuita and other sasalu and sold them at a small profit.” As her business grew, she ordered vau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) from her island and began making garlands and sold them too.

“Unfortunately, my husband passed away in the Golan Heights while on tour of duty and I was forced to look after the wellbeing of my children and grandchildren.

I bought voivoi leaves and wove mats and started selling them at reasonable prices because nowadays mats are very expensive.

“I chose to weave mats because it was a skill I already had and I had four girls at home that I taught as well and they now help me weave.

“I consider it a blessing that I have four children who are girls and now they are helping me in making garlands, mats and our household work.” Ms Baleivuna said with their help, she could weave two mats a week.

“After the mats are ready, I take them to Lautoka and Nadi markets. “Over time, as people saw the work I did, women from the market began calling me to place their orders.

“I began posting my mats on Facebook and slowly orders from overseas began to come in.

“My dream is to increase my business and help my son who is in Year 13. “I want to make sure I am able to provide everything for his education in high school and tertiary next year.”

More Stories