For Samoan Aofia Tuilosega, workshops, fairs and arts and the holiday arts and crafts show yesterday at the Multi-Purpose Center was one way for her and her mother Flowerpot Salas to preserve their culture.
“We don’t just sell. We do it to preserve our culture and be proud of who you are,” Tuilosega said.
The arts and crafts show yesterday featured leaf painting by Ernie Davis, deep-sea and island photographs by Mark and Tammy James, and was organized by Tokie Mojica, from the Marshalls, who also sold her crafts.
Tuilosega said she has been learning the arts and crafts all her life under her mom Flowerpot, calling her one of the few local artists left on island as weavers and carvers they’ve known have passed away in recent years.
“We’re just really trying to survive, do workshops and teach the youth and carry on our tradition,” she said.
She said she and her mom make orders for people in Texas, Washington, California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia all the way up to New York and even Colorado.
“No matter where you are in the world, you can always take an old flower that you love and go to Washington and they’ll right away point you out in the crowd and say ‘Hey! You’re an islander! You’re one of us,” she said.
One item on sale yesterday was a dress skirt made from “pagu” or hibiscus tree bark, which according to Aofia, takes as much as three months to harvest the raw materials.
The stripped bark sits in the ocean for a month, tied in a rice-sack and set down by blocks so waves won’t wash the bark away. It is then dried under the sun for another month.
The material can be used for canoes or skirts, according to Tuilosega.
Flowerpot Salas also sold flowers yesterday, among other popular items like their mwar mwars, shell bracelets, beads, and woven mats and hats.
“Every island girl always need to have a flower. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the Pacific, Malaysia, or Micronesia,” she said.
Silk-stockings, tapa, or mulberry bark, to cloth and pandus are used to make flowers, according to Tuilosega.