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With love from Fakaofo: The woven ato of Tokelau

Ato Hamufua

Ato Hamufua (Woven Hand Bag), Fakaofo, Tokelau. Purchased Auckland Museum 1970 AM 43807.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Ko te ato tenei e lahi fakaaoga e fafine. E tuku ai a latou kope, e fakaaoga foki ki na lotu ke taukave ai na Tuhi Paia. E mahani oi fakameaalofa ienei ato ki na tino tafafao, kaemaihe na kaiga e tafafao atu ki Tokelau.

Ko he galuega faigata te lalagaga o te ato tenei. E kamata mai te fakatotokaga o na kaukie, e haka, oi fakavai, oi fole ai ma fakalalā. Ko teia e paepae ma ai na fenu. E mago loa, oi fakaaoga loa e na figo ki te lalagaga o na ato.

Ko te lalagaga o te ato, e kamata i he pekapeka, oi lalaga ai fakatafafā, kae fakalapotopoto ki loto na tulimanu. Kafai e uma tena, oi gaulua ai, kae hohoko na pito, e fakaaoga kiei na fenū. E vena foki na kau o te ato, e lalaga foki i na fenu.

Woven Hand Bag

This bag is used mainly by women. Women keep their personal belongings in it, as well as carrying their Bible in to church. They are often gifted to visitors and family visiting Tokelau.

Making a bag of this kind is a difficult task. It starts with collecting new shoots of the coconut leaves, which are boiled and left in fresh water for a few days. The residue on the underside is then stripped before drying and bleaching in the sun. Once dry they will be ready for weaving.

Weaving starts with laying out a central crisscross section which is then extended to a rectangular form, rounded at the corners. When this is complete, it's then folded in two and sewn along the two sides using strands of coconut shoots. The handles of the bag are formed using the same material.

Ato Fenū

Ato Fenū (Woven Bag), Fakaofo, Tokelau. Purchased Auckland Museum 1970 AM 43809.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Ko te ato fenū tenei, e lalaga foki i na fenū. Ko he galuega lahi lele te hauniga o na fenu. E kamata mai i te tāga o na kaukie, fati kehe na fualauniu, kave kehe te tuaniu, oi haka loa na moemoe. Kafai e uma, oi fakavai ai mo he lua aho, oi halo kehe ai te kelekele, fufulu oi kave ai fakala. Kafai e mamago, oi hāu ai, ma fakaaogā loa ki te lalaga.

Ko te ato e lalaga agai ki he fua ato, e ve ko na fua taiuli, oi lalaga ai kiei. Kafai e uma ake, kave kehe te fua, kae tu mai te ato. Ko tona kau foki, e lalaga foki i na fenu.

E lahi fakaaoga e na matua e ve he ato taukave, pe fai meaalofa ai foki ki na tino ahiahi.

Woven Bag

This bag is also woven using the new shoots of the coconut leaves. It is an involved process getting the shoots to the weaving stage. Starting from cutting the new shoots from the coconut tree, then removing the midribs from the leaflets and boiling them. This is followed by soaking in water for two days, removing the residue on the underside then drying them in the sun. Once dry, they are ready for weaving.

The bag is woven against a wooden cylindrical form, just as woven hats are. When completed and the cylindrical form removed you have a beautiful bag. The handle is also of the same material.

It is usually used by women as a handbag, or presented by them as gifts to visitors.

Ato Teu

Ato Teu (Decorative Bag), Fakaofo, Tokelau. Purchased Auckland Museum 1970 AM 43814.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira

E lahi lele te galuega na lalaga ai te ato tenei. E lalaga i na fenu, kae e iei foki na mamanu i na kautafa o te ato, ma lalo i te takele o te ato.

Ko te tahi itu o te ato e mamanu foki i na fenu lanu. Ko na laufau e fakatogo, oi maua ai la na fenu vali ke fakagali ai te ato. Kae ko te tahi itu o te ato teu e teuteu i na mimiha. Ko na mimiha e ao mai i na matafaga i tuafenua, kafai e mamaha te tai.

Tena e tuhi ai te fakakupuga – “Alofa mai Fakaofo.”

Decorative Bag

It is an enormous task to weave this type of bag. It is woven with new shoots of the coconut leaves, but has decorations along the sides as well as at the bottom.

One side is decorated with dyed hibiscus strips to beautify the bag. The other side of the bag is adorned with shells. These shells are collected on the beach during low tide.

The adorned message reads – "Love from Fakaofo".


Writing and translation provided by Iutana Pue.