Shopping for handicraft in Fiji can turn out to be an educational experience.
Tourists often ask “What’s that?” and “What’s it used for?” when shopping for craft. And it’s little wonder why.
Fiji offers a rich variety of handicraft (often handmade using local materials) that is unique to our islands.
Those questions are welcomed in fact, locals will tell you what the objects are, what they’re made from and what their traditional uses are.
Here is a guide on some of the handicraft you might encounter when shopping for souvenirs.
Made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree, this rough material is used either plain, or dyed and stenciled.
While Masi or Tapa (as it is more commonly known) is available throughout the Pacific, Fijian tapa has its own distinctive look. Very fine stencil prints differentiate Fijian tapa from that of other countries.
The palette consists of raw, earthy colours, which are usually made from all natural dyes such as plant roots and soil.
Traditionally, tapa is used to decorate bures (thatched cottages) or as clothing in weddings. In their modern usage, they make great wall hangings and you will also find pouches and bags made from the hardy material.
Weaving is a way of life for Fijian women, who have continued this art for centuries. Mats are usually made from pandanus leaves (voivoi in Fijian) and often finished off with brightly coloured wool edging.
A common trend these days are bags made from mats, which thanks to the tropical feel - make a stylish addition to any summer/beach wardrobe.
Coconut husk fibres are woven to create a rough, hardy rope called magimagi.
Traditionally, it is used to decorate the pillars inside the house or used to lash wood in the construction joints.
Nowadays, you will find magimagi used to decorate war club handles, tanoa (kava bowls) and tabua (sacred whale’s teeth).
They also make great belts with oversized shell fastenings.
Situated east of Fiji, the Lauan group of islands is home to Fiji’s best carvers.
They produce most of the wooden handicraft that is available in handicraft markets and shops.
Local wood such as vesi, dakua as well as mahogany and raintree are used to create tanoa, war clubs, masks, miniature lali (traditional drums) and canoes.
The wooden artifacts are created entirely by hand, using chisels and can take up to a week depending on the size.
Wooden tanoa, traditionally used for kava, also double as great fruit and salad bowls.
So when you’re shopping for handicraft in Fiji, be sure to ask about...