Lesson Plan

'Ie Toga (Fine Mat): Samoan Traditions of Weaving

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Grade Level:
Second Grade-Fourth Grade
Subject:
Biology: Plants, Botany, Conservation, Ecology, Environment, Language Arts, Social Studies
Duration:
45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Standard 7: Students examine organisms’ structures and functions for life processes, including growth and reproduction. (ASDOE Elementary Science Standards: Grade 2-4, pp. 28-42)

Overview

The giving and receiving of ‘ie tōga (fine mats) is an integral part of Fa’a Samoa (Samoan Way). These fine mats are used for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and the bestowing of chiefly titles. Fine mats have been passed down from generation to generation. These fine mats are as enduring as our Samoan culture. 

Objective(s)

Students will be able to:

1. Define the vocabulary terms 'ie tōga and pandanus tree.

2. Understand that 'ie tōga is made from the native pandanus (lauie) tree.

3. Understand the uses of 'ie tōga.

 



Background

The value of an ‘ie tōga (fine mat) is derived from the knowledge, skill, patience, and love that go into its making. Some fine mats take years to complete. In the past, there were many accomplished fine mat makers. Almost every village had a designated spot (Fale Lalaga) where women would gather to make these mats. These women would teach their children the art of making fine mats.

An ʻie tōga is a special finely woven mat that has the highest cultural value in the Sāmoa islands. They are commonly referred to in English as fine mats, although they are never used as sitting mats. ʻIe tōga are valued because of the quality of the weave and the softness and shine of the material. They are only made by women and form an integral part of their role, identity, and skill in their community.

‘Ie tōga have an unwoven fringe and a strip of red feathers.They are exchanged and presented at weddings and funerals, matai chief title bestowals, and at special occasions such as the blessing of a newly-built fale (house) or the opening of a new church. ʻIe tōga are sometimes worn at special occasions, around the waist, similar to a lavalava. At funerals, ʻie tōga are given to the family of the deceased and gifts of ʻie toga, and food are given in return. These exchanges display a mutual respect that enforces family (ʻaiga) ties. In this way, ʻie tōga are passed down from family to family, sometimes for many years and are greatly valued. Historically, some ʻie tōga were so valuable they were given their own names. The process of making an ʻie tōga can take months or even years of work to create. The completion of an ʻie tōga can involve a public celebration and presentation with the women parading and displaying their fine mats for all to see.

The best quality of ʻie tōga are made from a variety of long leaved pandanus known as lauʻie. More common types of 'ie toga with a coarser weave are made from laufala, another variety of pandanus. The pandanus are grown in village plantations. The long leaves are selected and cut from the plant and taken back to the village. The leaves are prepared by soaking them in boiling water followed by drying and bleaching in the sun. Once dry, the leaves are rolled and tied into bundles in preparation for weaving. The long dried leaves are then slit into thin strips for weaving.

In the 19th century, young women would start their own mats or complete ones started by older sisters. Today, it is more common for mats to be woven by a group of women working in a fale lalaga (weaving house). The decorative red feathers were originally from Sāmoan or Fijian Collared Lory birds, called "sega," but more modern examples use dyed chicken feathers.

The numbers of ʻie tōga as well as fine mat makers are dwindling. Methods and techniques used in making ʻie tōga have evolved because of modern tools and equipment. We honor all those skilled and dedicated artists who participate in pertuating the craft of making an ʻie tōga, and for keeping this part of our culture alive.



Materials

1. Crayons and/or markers
2. Pandanus Tree coloring handouts

 



Procedure

Introduce Inquiry Question

Why does the ‘ie tōga play an important role in the Samoan culture?

 

Pre-Activity

Ask: Have you seen an ‘ie tōga? Do you have one at home? Explain that ‘ie tōga is a special finely woven mat that has the highest cultural value in the Sāmoa islands. ‘Ie toga are used for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, bestowing of chiefly titles, and blessing of a new fale (house) or the opening of a new church. ʻIe tōga are been passed down from generation to generation.

 

Ask: Have you ever heard of the pandanus tree? Where and how did you hear about it? Explain to the students that the pandanus tree is very important to Samoans. For thousands of years, pandanus has been used to make ʻie tōga and clothing. Today, ʻie tōga are still woven and are valuable like money in a saving account. Tell the students that the best quality of ʻie tōga are made from a variety of long leaved pandanus known as lauʻie.

 

Watch Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED2sAOnq89A
 

Before the video, ask the students to pay close attention to how the ‘ie toga was used in the past and how itwas made. After the video, check the students comprehension by asking the following questions:

1. What kind of tree is used to make an ‘ie tōga?

2. Name the native birds who’s feathers were used to decorate the ‘ie tōga?

3. What were the special occasions that ‘ie tōga  was used for?



Activity 1

Have students arrange their desks and provide materials as indicated so that they can color the Samoan design of the pandanus (lauie) leaf. When finished, have them present their coloring to the class.

 

Conclusion with Inquiry Question

Why does the ‘ie tōga play an important role in the Samoan culture?

 

Stewardship Message

Encourage your family and friends to learn and practice the Samoan tradition of weaving an ‘ie tōga before it’s lost forever. Also, encourage your family and friends to plant trees around your home and in your community.