Surviving, succeeding from weaving
Returning to traditional practices is not easy but for those who have proven that it can be successful, the rewards are sweet.
For 60-year-old Simalua Lepa from the village of Savaia Lefaga, she leads a group of women who have a passion for weaving.
“Tomorrow we will have our weaving gathering ( fale lalaga) for village women,” she tells the Village Voice.
“This (weaving) is what mothers do to take care of their family; the aualuma gathering meets up every Thursday. We don’t weave normal mats; it’s always the fine mats that we focus on.
“I have a fine mat over here, it’s not finished because our gathering was just recently formed.”
But what sort of work goes into making fine mats?
“I would go and collect my own leaves (Lau Ie) from over there,
“We would then open it up and boil it then dry it; after I would shred then roll up the leaf. I tear off the back and then use the good side to make the fine mat.”
Weaving has been practiced by Simalua for a while and it has already turned a profit for her.
“We have been doing this for a while; it’s been five years since we first started our aualuma gathering,” she said.
“Every woman is different with how they take care of the gathering; I am in charge of our aualuma gathering and there is another girl in charge of the one in the coastal area.
“I have sold two fine mats when I first started making them; I sold them both for $400 each. It was sold at a discount because they were family.”
Simalua says that the money is good from the fine mats she makes but it’s not easy to spend hours weaving.
“We make a lot from selling fine mats,” she said.
“Even when it comes to normal mats we make a lot. The only issue I face is the pain (hands) but I push through it because I know that it’s useful.”
Simalua concluded by stating that there is absolutely no poverty in Samoa.
“There is no poverty and no hunger in Samoa,” she said.
“It’s your own fault if you don’t try and take care of your own family. For me this is what we do to make money in our family.
“There is no one currently employed in this family. My family lives on $300 and when the four children go to school then they use $5 to eat. We make our money from the ocean and these mats.”