Accepted Paper:

Analyzing Fijian mats as containers of female essences and as female bodies  
Jara Hulkenberg (University of the South Pacific)

Paper short abstract:

This paper suggests there is a metonymic relation between indigenous Fijian mats and female bodies. Mats are containers of the essences of the women who make them and materializations of female bodies with the associated nurturing and protective qualities in life and death.

Paper long abstract:

As female bodies nurture and protect new life in the womb, Fijian mats are said to fulfill an important nurturing and protective function in life and death. This association with female bodies is further reflected in the names of specific elements of Fijian mats. The upper surface of the mat is called the stomach and has an important life giving function. The underside is the back, the diamond shapes that are created when strips are plaited crosswise are the eyes. Some mats have squares at the outer corners projecting outwards which are the ears. The edge from where you start weaving is referred to as the head. A mat must always lie on its back with the belly facing upward and the 'head' facing forward. Otherwise the mat cannot fulfill its nurturing, protective function when a person sits or lies on it. Influenced by the works of Weiner and Schneider (1989), Miller (2005), Geismar and Bell (2009), I am suggesting there is a metonymic relation between Fijian mats and female bodies. They are containers of the essences of the women who make them and materializations of female bodies with the associated nurturing and protective qualities. Like Fijian women, mats presented as gifts in ceremonial exchange have an important role in confirming and establishing 'paths of kinship' which tie all indigenous Fijians to one another.

Panel P085
Containers / Containment