Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before eBook

George Turner (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 230 pages of information about Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before.

Fine Mats.—­Their fine mats were, and are still, considered their most valuable clothing.  These mats are made of the leaves of a species of pandanus scraped clean and thin as writing-paper, and slit into strips about the sixteenth part of an inch wide.  They are made by the women; and, when completed, are from two to three yards square.  They are of a straw and cream colour, are fringed, and, in some instances, ornamented with small scarlet feathers inserted here and there.  These mats are thin, and almost as flexible as a piece of calico.  Few of the women can make them, and many months—­yea, years, are sometimes spent over the making of a single mat.  These fine mats are considered their most valuable property, and form a sort of currency which they give and receive in exchange.  They value them at from two to forty shillings each.  They are preserved with great care; some of them pass through several generations, and as their age and historic interest increase, they are all the more valued.

Another kind of fine mats for clothing they weave out of the bark of a plant of the nettle tribe, which is extensively spread over these islands without any cultivation.  They are shaggy on the one side, and, when bleached white, resemble a prepared fleecy sheep-skin.  These they sometimes dye with red clay found in the mountains.  From the strength and whiteness of the fibre manufactured from this plant, it is capable of being turned to great use.

Cleanliness.—­As the native cloth cannot be washed without destroying it, it is generally filthy in the extreme before it is laid aside.  This has induced a habit of carelessness in washing cotton and other garments, which is very offensive and difficult to eradicate.  They are cleanly, however, in other habits beyond most of the natives of Polynesia.  Their floor and sleeping mats are kept clean and tidy.  They generally use the juice of the wild orange in cleansing, and bathe regularly every day.  It is worth remarking, too, that, while bathing, they have a girdle of leaves or some other covering round the waist.  In this delicate sense of propriety it would be well for some more civilised parts of the world to learn a lesson from the Samoans.

Special Occasions.—­At marriages and on other gala days, the women, and many of the men, laid aside the leaves and girded themselves with fine mats.  Gay young men and women decorated themselves with garlands of flowers or shells.  The nautilus shell, broken into small pieces, and strung together, was a favourite head-dress.  They oiled themselves from head to foot with scented oil, and sometimes mixed turmeric with the oil to give their skin a tinge of yellow.

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Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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