The Crafty Women of Toge
I’ve asked some questions about the mat weaving, bilo (cup) scraping, and sasa (broom) making that the women were doing last week! I have no doubt that I’ll learn much more about all these in the next two years but for now this is what I know!
These mats can be found in almost every house in the village, even mine! You’d think they’re easy (ish) to make since they’re so common, but let me tell ya… they take SO. MUCH. TIME.
First someone cuts Pandanus leaves, these are long narrow leaves; They’re about 3-4 inches wide and can be about 3 ft long. The leaves are then boiled in water and left in the sun to dry out for a few days. While drying out the leaves go from green to tan, the sunnier it is the lighter the leaves get. Once the leaves are completely dried out the women will wrap them around their hand so all the leaves can be in a nice organized coil.
Now the fun begins. The leaves are sliced with a knife so they are thinner; now about 1/2 inch wide. This is the typical width the leaves are when they weave. Then the weaving begins, all by hand while sitting on the floor chatting with girlfriends. They put so much hard work and love into these mats!
Bilo (Cup) Scraping:
Next is the coconut bilo! These are used to serve grog, a traditional Fijian drink that the men in my village love very much. First you find a brown coconut, crack it in half and scrape the white meat out (super yummy in salads). Then you use a sharp kitchen knife and cut the husk off the outside of it, this is the part that I failed at. It’s much harder than it sounds! Once the husk is off, you keep scraping until it’s as smooth as you can make it. To get the inside we used a small piece of glass. Then you soak the two halves in water for a few days, after the 4th day you get them out and scrape some more while they’re still wet. Let them dry in the sun & scrape some more till they’re perfectly smooth. Then rub coconut oil on them to make them even smoother & dry them out in the sun again. I’ll be using mine as bowl for soup and fruit!
Sasa (Broom) Making:
And for the sasa! I have one of these in my house too! The sasa I think is the most simple but also very time consuming, but when ya have all your gal pals by your side who cares how long it takes? To make the sasa you need a wooden rod (think broom stick), a few nails, a rubber tie, and many coconut leaves.
The time consuming part comes from the coconut leaves. We sit for hours with a sharp kitchen knife cutting the green part of the leaf off and finely shaving the leaf down to the tan stem in the middle. The tan stem is what we use for the bristles of the sasa. Once you shaved down about 75-100 leaves you’re ready to put the sasa together! Gather all the stems so they’re even on one side and then separate into smaller chunks to be put on the wooden stick and secured with the rubber tie. As the river tie is wrapped around the stick, more stems are added and the tie is nailed into the stick. Then you’re done! A sasa can be bought in the village for only $5, that’s A LOT of work behind that $5.
Which one would you want to make?