CHAPTER IX. CLOTHING.
In our last chapter we alluded to the food of the Samoans, and now proceed to a description of their clothing, the materials of which it is made, their modes of ornament, etc.
During the day a covering of ti leaves (Dracæna terminalis) was all that either sex thought necessary. "They sewed" ti "leaves together, and made themselves aprons." The men had a small one about a foot square, the women had theirs made of longer ti leaves, reaching from the waist down below the knee, and made wide, so as to form a girdle covering all round. They had no regular covering for any other part of the body. Occasionally, during rain, they would tie a banana leaf round the head for a cap, or hold one over them as an umbrella. They made shades for the eyes of a little piece of plaited cocoa-nut leaflet; and sometimes they made sandals of the plaited bark of the Hibiscus tiliaceus, to protect the feet while fishing among the prickly coral about the reef.
Native Cloth. - At night they slept on a mat, using as a covering a mat or a sheet of native cloth, and inclosed all round by a curtain of the same material to keep out musquitoes. In sickness, also, they wrapped themselves up in native cloth. Their native cloth was made of the inner bark of the paper mulberry (Morus papyrifera) beaten out on a board, and joined together with arrow-root, so as to form any width or length of cloth required.
The juice of the raspings of the bark of trees, together with red clay, turmeric, and the soot of burnt candle-nut, furnished them with colouring matter and varnish, with which they daubed their native cloth in the form of squares, stripes, triangles, etc., but, with a few exceptions, perhaps, devoid of taste or regularity.
Tutunga is the native name of the paper mulberry. A fabulous story is told of it and a stinging tree called Salato. As the tale goes, they were two brothers, and had each his plot of ground and a distinct boundary. One morning Tutunga stretched over his boundary and crossed to Salato. Salato was displeased and complained to Tutunga, but he was sullen and made no reply. The affair was referred to the parents; who decided that the two should separate, and that Salato should go further inland, and be sacred and respected; and so it is, no one dares to touch it. On the other hand, Tutunga was severely punished for having proudly crossed his boundary. He was to be cut, and skinned, and beaten, and painted, and made to cover the bodies of men. Then to rot, and then to be burned. And so it is - thus ends Tutunga the proud.
Fine Mats. - Their fine mats were, and are still, considered their most valuable clothing. These mats are made of the leaves of a species of pandanus scraped clean and thin as writing-paper, and slit into strips about the sixteenth part of an inch wide. They are made by the women; and, when completed, are from two to three yards square. They are of a straw and cream colour, are fringed, and, in some instances, ornamented with small scarlet feathers inserted here and there. These mats are thin, and almost as flexible as a piece of calico. Few of the women can make them, and many months - yea, years, are sometimes spent over the making of a single mat. These fine mats are considered their most valuable property, and form a sort of currency which they give and receive in exchange. They value them at from two to forty shillings each. They are preserved with great care; some of them pass through several generations, and as their age and historic interest increase, they are all the more valued.
Another kind of fine mats for clothing they weave out of the bark of a plant of the nettle tribe, which is extensively spread over these islands without any cultivation. They are shaggy on the one side, and, when bleached white, resemble a prepared fleecy sheep-skin. These they sometimes dye with red clay found in the mountains. From the strength and whiteness of the fibre manufactured from this plant, it is capable of being turned to great use.
Cleanliness. - As the native cloth cannot be washed without destroying it, it is generally filthy in the extreme before it is laid aside. This has induced a habit of carelessness in washing cotton and other garments, which is very offensive and difficult to eradicate. They are cleanly, however, in other habits beyond most of the natives of Polynesia. Their floor and sleeping mats are kept clean and tidy. They generally use the juice of the wild orange in cleansing, and bathe regularly every day. It is worth remarking, too, that, while bathing, they have a girdle of leaves or some other covering round the waist. In this delicate sense of propriety it would be well for some more civilised parts of the world to learn a lesson from the Samoans.
Special Occasions. - At marriages and on other gala days, the women, and many of the men, laid aside the leaves and girded themselves with fine mats. Gay young men and women decorated themselves with garlands of flowers or shells. The nautilus shell, broken into small pieces, and strung together, was a favourite head-dress. They oiled themselves from head to foot with scented oil, and sometimes mixed turmeric with the oil to give their skin a tinge of yellow.