Image: Mat, Vanuatu E87350

Mat, Vanuatu E87350

Local name: singo maraha

Provenance: Lovonda, Logana, Ambae Island, Vanuatu, Melanesia, Pacific

Mats of East Ambae are often used as items of exchange and are important in a number of ritual contexts such as marriage, death or achievement of rank. On Ambae, women achieve status through marriage and through feats of mat production and the two are clearly linked.

This vatungule mat is a type of singo maraha. Singo is a mat which is subject to restrictions on its production, handling and use: these restrictions are enforced in part by the harm caused to a person who touches them inappropriately. This potential to harm is explicitly linked to the design which characterises it - in this case the design is of a bembe (butterfly/moth). Singo are then attached to long maraha (vatungule) and are at the centre of the huhuru ceremony, a ceremony held after marriage by which women achieve status and full participation in the community. Huhuru means to make red, and refers to the dyeing of mats.

The singo for this particular mat was made in 1992 by Evelyn Malanga while the maraha was made by the Waisilongi Women’s Club, Longana, East Ambae, as part of the Women’s Culture Project organised by the Vanuatu Culture Centre.

The Museum acquired this mat through Dr Lissant Bolton’s work with the Women’s Culture Project. Dr. Bolton was a Collection Manager with the Museum undertaking her doctoral studies in Ambae.

Description: folded, woven, pink dyed, pandanus leaf mat; short (approx. 4.5cm) tassels along one side; 1.5cm fringe along other side; longer, pink fringe at end of mat, yellow tassels (up to 40cm long) also at end; braided cord tied around mat.

Height: 21cm; Length: 45.5cm; Width: 52cm

Emma Furno
© Australian Museum

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