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Woven Bowls & Trays

One of the most important customs of the Samoa islands involves a solemn ritual where cups of ava are shared from a common bowl to mark the most important occasions in Samoan society. It is not an everyday event as it is in some other countries, but is a very special ceremony. Long ago before the letter k was dropped from the Samoan language it was also called kava in this country. Ava is made from the roots of the ava plant and mixed with water before it is strained for drinking. ... read more... read more

Ava bowls, or tanoa, are for the ceremonial drinking of ava. They are handcarved from a solid piece of local hardwood , usually the ifilele, a hard grained timber of a maple colour. They are of varying sizes and are mostly quite shallow. The width of the brim also varies according to the size of the bowl. They usually have short rounded legs also varying, from 4 to 24. When the bowls are finished they are soaked in fresh water for a while to remove the smell of fresh timber. Often ava is retained in the bowls to give the insides a varnished appearance and will also prevent absorption of the liquid into the wood.

There are other ava bowls carved on a round base instead of legs and with the traditional Samoan tattoo patterns etched on the outside. The bowl is carved then just the outside is immersed in water until it turns almost black. Then the tattoo patterns are etched into the timber with the lighter timber underneath contrasting with the dark timber.

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