Weaving tradition with Kiribati youth

Weaving tradition with Kiribati youth

Teaumai Tebuaua learnt her traditional mat weaving skills as a teenager and today she is well-known in Kiribati for her craft. The 60-year-old is now putting her skills to use in ChildFund's new youth skills programme teaching young people traditional mat weaving.

"My mother's passing on of her weaving skills to me was her way of not only preserving family traditions and her own Kiribati identity but also her way of teaching me a skill that I could use to generate an income to support my family in the future," Teaumai says. 

“I am very delighted now to join Nei Nibarara and share my weaving skills in making traditional necklaces, house decorations from seashells (Buroo), birthday and wedding banner mats, sleeping mats and many more things.”  

As a teenager living on the Island of Nikunau, and like her peers there, she leart her weaving skills from her mother. Many youths living in Betio today have missed out on learning traditional skills, like weaving, through their family.

Weaving took much time, practice and patience she says, but her weaving skills improved, and eventually, she was able to develop new skills to weave other traditional items from pandanus leaves like handbags, purses and book covers.  

Teaumai has taught Kiribati traditional weaving mats at King George V and Elaine Bernacchi School for two years, she was also has been engaged  by the Ministry of Women Youth Sport and Social Affairs to run training for women on three outer islands. She was also selected by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to participate in and share her handmade craft at an event held in Guam.

"Weaving is such a good way to preserve our Kiribati heritage and identity. Also learning these skills will help young people to be able to generate a small income to support their family in the future."

Weaving will be taught to students along with how to make fishing nets, sewing and basic literacy as part of ChildFund Kiribati's youth skills programme. 

This programme is possible through funding from Kiwi supporters and the New Zealand Ministry Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

Read more stories about our work in Kiribati here.

Read more stories about our MFAT supported work here.