These countries have a very rich history of arts and
crafts. A brief description of the crafts of some of
these countries is given below:
have constructed many types of canoes, each designed
for a specific purpose such as the "Paopao",
which is used for fishing within the reef areas and
the "Va'aalo", which is a bigger fishing craft
used outside reef areas and for short distance travel.
The Samoas arguably represent the largest population
of Polynesian people and they take pride in a strong
culture that has survived outside incursions amazingly
centuries, fine mats, woven from the leaves of the pandamas
tree, have been the symbol of wealth and prosperity.
To this day, they are equated to the many hours, indeed
sometimes years, of work put into the diligent weaving
of the mat. In this way, the intrinsic value of the
work in the mat is valued so highly, that for many years
the mats were used for money and barter. Today, they
are given mostly as gifts at special occasions like
marriages, and to the bereaved families at funerals.
is however a wide variety of handicrafts and artifacts
made by local craftspeople. Tapa cloth made from the
bark of the mulberry tree, dyed with natural local dyes
can be readily found. Shell jewelry is also of a high
standard and inexpensive. The carvings are authentic
and of very good quality.
was a popular medium for drawing and writing before
the invention of paper. The aboriginal peoples of Australia
painted on tree bark. It's no secret that the Australian
Aboriginal Didgeridoo is the only musical instrument
that has been created by nature long before humanity
existed on the earth.
the end of the 19th Century, some craftsmen evolved
into artisans and set about introducing aesthetics into
their home. Scrimshaws from bone, bullock horns and
emus eggs. Picture frames decorated with gumnuts. Pillow
cases sewn from an assortment of animal hides and hessan.
Cigar boxes decorated with shards of pottery. A simple
sign saying "home."
Towards the end of the
20th century, craft making began to flower in the cities.
The most notable style was the recycling of fence pailings
in tables, picture frames and book covers. Other common
crafts included clocks fitted to polished tree burls,
timber carved into candle holders and cigar boxes making
use of gum nuts embedded in native timbers.
Cook Islands: The
Cook Island women are renowned for their craftwork particularly
their Tivaevae. These are handmade bedspreads mainly
featuring brightly coloured flowery patterns. Local
women make and reserve these for special occasions.
traditional island cloth, tapa is enjoying a revival
in its popularity. It is produced by beating the bark
until the required texture is obtained and is decorated
with traditional cultural patterns. While it's lack
of comfort means it is no longer used for garments,
it does make - and is often used for - a fabulous wall
The pareu is the modern day garment regularly in use
in the Cook Islands. It is a length of cloth about 2
metres long, which can be tied around the body in a
variety of ways. Pareus are a practical garment for
the hot climate, the light colourful fabrics wash and
dry quickly and are equally good as picnic cloths or
Dresses, skirts and blouses of the same material are
also popular with women, while men prefer the island
style aloha shirts. Arts and crafts are readily available
in the Cook Islands with the most popular souvenir items
being the wooden carvings of the phallic demi-god 'Tangaroa'.
handcrafts often come from islands, which specialise
in a particular item. The omate shell and seed hat bands
come from Mangaia, while finely woven pandanus mats
come from Pukapuka. Materials used in weaving are palm
and pandanus leaves, which are so well processed that
the end product often has the appearance of a linen
One of the finest examples of local handicraft is the
rito hat. These hats are available to tourists. They
are a vital part of every Cook Islands woman's dress.
baskets are always a popular item and are made from
the fibre of coconuts.
art of pottery brought into the South Pacific by the
gifted and versatile "Lapita" people survived
in Fiji but failed in Tonga, Samoa and east Polynesia
on account of the lack of suitable clay. The Fijians
still make pottery. But the pottery of recent historic
times has degenerated considerably from the ware made
by the first settlers.
art as well as in other domains, Eastern Polynesia formed
a region apart. The wooden or stone anthropomorphic
statuettes called "ti'i" or tiki had a religious
significance, whereas articles for useful or ornamental
purposes were simply given a decorative design.
famous tiki, the Marquesan name for the "ti'i"
of Tahiti, is found in various situations, and those
decorating combs or the handles of fans are very finely
carved. Those that were a little larger and made of
wood were perhaps already used for religious purposes.
They are to be found as posts, as individual statuettes
averaging 30 cm in height, or as components of canoes.
most coarsely fashioned stone or coral "ti'i"
were usually found on the marae or at the boundary of
sacred land. In the Austral Islands, where the decorative
arts no doubt were most characteristically Polynesian,
important articles, usually made of wood, were carved
with fine geometric motifs. Human forms, especially
on drum bases, are completely original and have nothing
in common with the famous tiki, which seems today to
be the only symbol of Polynesian art.
is presently an Unincorporated Territory of the United
States. On August 1st 1950, the Chamorros of Guam were
granted the right of civilian rule through the Organic
Act of Guam. The famous handicrafts of Guam include
carved love stick, bead bracelets and necklaces, woven
baskets, marmars (flower necklace that goes around your
forehead), woven traditional stars and shapes with shells
and shell necklaces.
is a skill as well as an art, and the Kiribati women
are very fine weavers. Designs used in weaving are family
property, and mothers passed the skill on to their daughters.
Besides weaving fine mats for sleeping, they also make
baskets, hats and fans. Pandanus leaves are used, and
sometimes coconut leaves. The application of easily
procured commercial dyes is not unknown today, no doubt
in preference to local dyes which are prepared much
Marshall Islands: The
main craft items of Marshall Islands include baskets,
breadfruit peelers, canoes, coasters, fans, hats, headbands
(wut), jewelry, mats, obong, purses, stars and stickcharts.
Marshallese baskets are one of the major forms of handicraft.
These exist as open baskets and as baskets with a lid.
Specialised forms are hand bags and purses. Hats are
a comparatively new form of handicraft. In pattern,
weaving and ornamentation the hats follow the mats.
Woven hair ornaments are a comparatively new handicraft
development. The normal ornaments would have been headbands
(wut) made from flowers woven around a solid pandanus
core. Later, flowers were substituted by wool. The Wall
hangings (Obong) were introduced as a handicraft item
during the Japanese Mandate Period. Marshallese purses
or handbags are a more recent form of handicraft, which
enjoys increasing popularity.
New Zealand: Before
the arrival of the Europeans Maori literature, stories
and legends were handed down both orally and through
weavings and carvings. Some carvings are over 500 years
old. Carving used to be a tapu art, subject to the rules
and laws of tapu. The pieces of wood falling aside as
the carver worked were never thrown away, neither were
they used for the cooking of food. Women were not permitted
near the carvings. The history, traditions, language
and religion of the Maori make up an integral part of
the carving art.
weaving was made from the New Zealand flax (phormium
tenax). From the flax, baskets, floor mats, skirts and
cloaks were and still are made. There are more than
fifty different varieties of the New Zealand flax, and
the Maori know the advantages of each type of flax for
its respective use. The first Polynesians brought the
art of weaving and plaiting to New Zealand. Because
of the cooler climate, weaving techniques adapted and
developed into those used today.
traditionally carved designs into wood, bone and many
types of rock, including pounamu (greenstone). Some
of the ancient tools Maori used for carving inc luded
whao and kuru.
New Caledonia: New
has an age-old culture of archaeology and the Kanak
arts and traditions. Melanesian sculptures, totems,
funeral masks, as well as many objects depicting all
the aspects of this society: pottery, ornaments, jewellery
made of jade or shells, Kanak coins, spears, models
of outrigger canoes, roof poles, etc. are some of the
notable craft items of New Caledonia.
New Guinea: The
basis of primitive art is religion. It renders the divine
or supernatural visible thereby enabling man to live
in close contact with it and be secure, virile, fertile,
and a successful gardener and hunter. Hence it's images
are found not only on ritualistic or ceremonial objects
but also on more ordinary, everyday ones such as house
posts and gables, weapons, implements and jewellery.
stone axes and adzes were for rough work; skins of rays,
lizards, and sharks were used as abrasives for smooth
work along with pieces of coral and shells. The final
finish varies greatly from place to place. In the Sepik
the substances used most often to cover artifacts is
mixture of clay, burnt lime, and (tigaso) tree oil (which
is used to rub into the wounds incurred during the scarification
- initiation - ceremony).
In the Huon peninsula and Milne Bay areas a pig's tusk
is used to' polish ' the item whilst most Papuan Gulf
items are painted. Paints are applied throughout the
country with the fingers, chewed or frayed ends of plants
stems, or with feathers; charcoal for black; soapstone
for grey; ochres for yellow and brown; and plants for
red and blue.
Solomon Islands: Solomon
Islands carvings go back to the dawn of time. They have
their roots deep in the culture of the islands and their
people. They were, and still are, part of their religious,
economic and domestic lives.The
craftspersons of Solomon Islands produce highly polished
carvings with distinctive shell inlay work. The best
know of these is Nguzu Nguzu, the head of a sea god,
which used to be attached to the prow of a canoe. Sharks
and dolphins are also carved in the Western Province,
and attractive feather fans are made by the Gilbertese
(I-Kiribati) people who settled there in large numbers.
A form of shell or stone money using ossilised clam
shell was also produced by the craftspersons of this
War clubs made
on the island reflect the violent nature of the island.
Useful Ioya cane baskets with black and brown decorative
deisgns also come from this island, along with very
attractive combs with finely woven red and yellow designs.
Turtle shell jewellery is an interesting example of
craft developed by expatriates from Marau Sound using
Solomon Island materials.
in Tonga has traditionally been an important art form,
and this becomes evident during exhibitions of Tongan
dancing performed for visitors on the waterfront. The
songs and dances describe the legendary exploits of
the King's ancestors. In ancient times, dramatic events
were immediately translated into songs and dances, and
it is through this tradition that the history of the
Tongans is passed down to successive generations. Weaving
of cloth from the bark of the Pandanus palm is a native
craft, and one can lso pick up beautiful baskets and
finely woven mats.
Besides canoe racing and soccer, traditional pursuits
such as beautiful and intricate dances and making figures
from string are also practiced. For the really important
occasions and to honour particular achievements, chants
for one to four voices are popular. Crafts are traditionally
handmade and make use of local materials like palm leaves,
pandanus leaves, sea shells, tortoise shells and coconut
wood models of Gilbert Island houses and canoes.