Collection from National Park of American Samoa

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from the National Park of American Samoa.

The fine mat (‘ie toga) is made of cooked, dried pandanus leaves that are cut into strands and then woven together by skillful weavers.

National Park of American Samoa, NPSA 504

In order to create a fine mat, villagers first locate a pandanus plant and then harvest its green, thorny leaves. Weavers de- thorn the leaves and then leave them out in the sun to dry before being cooked in boiling water and dried in the sun again. The weavers then roll the leaves into bundles. These rolls are cut into thin strips that are used to create small patches of a fine mat. Several weavers work on tiny patches that are woven together to create one huge fine mat. Bird feathers decorate the fine mats.

Fine mats were used as currency before the introduction of money. Samoans traditionally exchanged them as gifts during funerals, chief bestowment ceremonies, weddings, and other traditional events. Fine mats come in different sizes, contain different colors of bird feathers, and utilize one of two types of pandanus leaves. These aspects determine the worth of the fine mats. It is also worn by Samoans around the waist during cultural performances. Today, fine mats are still exchanged for cultural events and worn for special occasions, but artificial feathers are used to decorate them. Fine mats are an active part of Samoan culture that plays a vital role in the way Samoans live today-just as it did in the past.

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from National Park of American Samoa.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson,
and Joan Bacharach.

Credits: All media
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