Material culture

woven floor mat
Typical hand woven floor mat made from pandanus. Museum Victoria Indigenous Cultures Collection, Tuvalu, 2000.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

In Tuvalu mats are practical household items that are woven and dyed using natural fibres and can range from simple designs and shades to intricate patterns and bold colours. They are used to sit on, eat on, pray on and sleep on. Like other hand-crafts such as canoe making, weaving is becoming a dying art only remembered and practised by Tuvaluan elders.

Fans or ili were traditionally woven by women using natural fibres found on the islands. Today, however, natural fibres have been slowly replaced with colourful synthetic materials brought to the island and fans are sold as souvenirs supplementing household income.

The canoe is a valued possession of any family in Tuvalu. Without it a family could not catch fish to balance their subsistence living.