The Story Behind
Tali Tali Yoga Mats
Weaving in Fiji is a tradition passed down from generation to generation through the lineage of women. Woven mats hold a great cultural value to this day.
The essence of nurturance is embodied into each TaliTali mat through every stage of it's creation. The entire process is about taking care of each other as Earth species.
The women who make them
When you walk in a Fijian village, you can’t miss the beautiful sight of "Voy Voy" mats being created.
It starts with hundreds of pandana bunches being spread out to dry in the sun, in every space available between the colourful little wooden houses. When peeking into the little houses, you find groups of local women in their brightly coloured dresses, sitting on the floor, weaving with great concentration, yet still laughing loudly, singing together and sharing each other's company.
The women have learned the mat-making skills from their mothers and grandmothers and they will pass it on to their daughters. Despite the many responsibilities they hold at home in daily life, they still find time to come together and create this piece of art.
The process of making the mats is long, tedious and repetitive. Yet, when making them, they share precious time with their tribe of women. The finished mat gives them great pride and self-appreciation for contributing such a valuable item to their home and community.
Tali Tali means woven in Fijian.
Woven mats are the surface on which most events in Fijian life take place.
From daily life to special occasions, woven mats are a big part of Fijian culture and usually the only furniture seen in a Fijian home.
They are used most commonly as a sleeping mat, eating mat, and a surface on which to sit and come together.
When special events like weddings and funerals come around, the village women will be preparing and weaving from morning to evening to present the mats as a gift. In events like that, the hosting family will receive a large number of mats. When a person dies, their body will be wrapped and buried in a woven mat.
Woven mats are also used as a form of currency.
The different patterns on the mat have a cultural meaning, often tell a story and also represent the area the mat is from.
The process of making
a Tali Tali yoga mat
Many stages need to take place before a Tali Tali Yoga Mat is born. Knowing the process gives greater appreciation of the craft and the women who make them.
The pandanas plant grows wild and prolifically around Fiji and other Pacific islands. Women also cultivate small plantations to have a constant accessible supply near their homes.
It all starts by cutting the pandanas. The women will cut hundreds of pieces at a time. A traditional mat will require more than 400 leaves. A Tali Tali Yoga Mat uses about 80.
The women carry the big piles home where they cut out the spiky spines and edges, then bunch them together in piles. The pandanas is boiled for a few minutes in a big giant pot over a wood fire, then spread out in the sun for drying.
The drying process can take between one and three weeks depending on the sun. Every morning, the women spread out hundreds of bunches on the grass and bring them into their homes at sunset. After they dry, the pandanas are still very hard and stiff. Every strip has to be softened by rubbing back and forwards around a chair leg, or beaten up with a wooden stick. Both ways of softening require great physical power and patience.
The black strips used for the patterns are dyed using a special leaf. The special leaves are soaked in water for a week. Then, the pandanas is boiled in that water to give them the black colour.
Only then, after picking, cutting, boiling, drying and softening, can the weaving stage begin, and that's the "real deal" stage where skill takes place. The women will often weave at night time when the children are sleeping and the pandanas are softer due to the cooler air. This stage can take anywhere from one to three weeks depending on the size of the mat. Tali Tali Yoga Mats take one to two full days.
Now that you know the work and love that goes into your Tali Tali Yoga Mat you will never look at it the same.