From J. Stanley Gardiner (1898), "The Natives of Rotuma," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 27:410-416.
IV. DRESS, ORNAMENTS, AND TATTOOING.
The ordinary dress of the present day for all consists of a fathom of cloth of perhaps double width round the waist; it is termed the kukaluga. No native cloth is now known, but it is well remembered and stated to have been generally of a brown colour; it was called uha or api, probably names for different kinds. The bark of the young breadfruit tree was used for its manufacture, and also that of a species of hibiscus; the paper mulberry of Fiji may have been used, but I never saw any growing in the island, nor could the natives identify any other trees as fit for the purpose. The bark was stripped off and allowed to soak in water for some days, after which the green outer bark was removed by rubbing it with stones sharpened to an edge; the bark was laid flat on a piece of timber and then thus scraped down. A stone was given me on the ship when leaving Rotuma, which, on inquiry of Rotumans in Fiji as to its use, was identified by one old man for this purpose; it was picked up after a storm on the beach. It is a piece of coral about 6 inches long by 21 broad and 11 thick. The one of its sides is rough and broad, and the other has been smoothed down to an edge, which is not in the centre, but about 1/3 inch from one side of the thickness of the stone, and hence 1 1/3 inches from the other; the part bevelled is about 1 1/4 inches broad. Thus one side is nearly flat, while the other is bevelled away. The cloth next was beaten out, and stained with the juice. of the ifi tree (Inocarpus edulis, Forsk). For the same purpose also turmeric, or mena, was used, but usually mixed with a stain produced by rubbing up the root of a tree (pakou ura, the root of the pakou) with lime. The first of these is yellow, and would give density, while the latter is purple, so that combined they would give a sort of brown colour.
Of the fibres of the hibiscus two kinds of dresses were plaited, the taktakoi and the arumea; their wear was not restricted to any particular class. The former has a plaited part about 4 inches wide, from which the fibres hang down for about 16 inches on each side, but over the unplaited part are no fibres ending freely. The arumea is similar, but, from the loose fibres over the plaited part, looks like the skin of some animal: its breadth should be about l6 inches, and at the edge it should not have any fringe longer than the loose fibres are left. The taktakoi was the ordinary dress of the man, and the arumea of the woman, but the latter was used by the man as well. Properly they were about a fathom in length. One end was placed in both sexes between the fork of the legs and brought up in front and held there while the remainder was coiled round the waist and fixed, the taktakoi being doubled along the middle. The outside bark of the tree was taken off fresh by a shell, and then the inside fibres were stripped off by hand. Next they were well dried, and split up into fine strands, and the dresses made. When they were finished, they were placed alternately day and night in the sun and the salt water to bleach, an operation taking three months, but giving a splendid white. The plaiting of the taktakoi was generally much the finer, as there was less of it to do. Both were very strong, and would last a lifetime. In the plaiting of the arumea the ends were simply left loose, or the strand cut off with a loose end, and the cut-off part used again to continue the same plait; it is exactly similar to a common Samoan dress.
Other dresses were only for use on particular occasions or by particular chiefs. Fine mats of large size were generally worn; indeed, for marriages, burials and feasts they were the proper dress (see Sec. XVIII). One kind, the tofua, was 8-10 inches wide, made of a fine pandanus mat, and sufficiently long to go conveniently round the waist; it tied at the top, with a few plaited loose pieces of fibre. Below this it had a fringe 8-10 inches long, made of the ends of the pandanus leaves used in its manufacture, cut up in a zigzag manner; round the edges should be a trimming of feathers, but wool of English manufacture has now generally replaced these.
The hair was formerly always worn long by both the men and women, and hung down as a rule below the waist; it was, however, when working, often drawn up in a knot or cone on the top of the head. Over the whole of the body the hair was carefully eradicated, shaving being effected by means of sharpened shells; the beard was likewise removed, but generally, when the man became any age, allowed to grow equally long with the hair of the head. Sharks' teeth were used for cutting hair. Of the invention of combs in Rotuma I could find no trace, the few I saw being typical Samoan.
Of ornaments, chaplets, and necklets were the principal ones made of flowers and the bright yellow seeds of the posoa, hata, and saaga(Pandanus sps. ?) strung together. No ornaments were worn in the ears, as the piercing of the lobes was not carried out till after the coming of the white man. A flower might, however, be worn above the ear, while more permanent ones for this purpose were made from the feathers of the tavek (boatswain) and other birds. Necklets of beads made out of whale's teeth were exceedingly valuable and only allowed to be worn by chiefs; the beads were sometimes round, but more often oval, with the ends somewhat flattened (Plate XXV, Figs. 2, 3, 4). They were generally buried with their possessor as constituting one of his most valuable possessions. English beads were very greatly prized. These whale's-tooth beads were the money of the old days, and were termed lei, while the name of any necklace is tifui; hence these necklaces were termed tifui lei.
A breastplate of pearl shell (Plate XXV, Fig. 1) was very generally worn by the chiefs; it was termed tiaf hapa. In general it was simply the ordinary shape of the shell with the rough outside part, the horny layer, taken off and smoothed down. Three holes were made near the hinge, and from these it was suspended on the upper part of the chest. The convex side was rubbed down till the outer coats were quite removed and the nacre was reached, and this side was hung outwards. One in my possession has not been nearly so much rubbed down, and seems to have been hung with the concave or inside outwards. They never seem to have been in any way cut down to represent a segment of a circle, as Duperrey represents them.
The only paint in use on the body was made from the turmeric plant, or mena(Curcuma longa, Linn.). The root of this is tuberous; when ripe, it is taken out of the ground, and left for one night. Then the skin is scraped off, and the tubers are washed in salt water. They are next ground up, or rather rolled, into a pulp with a thick round stick, called a tama, about 3 feet long and completely covered with cocoanut sinnet, after which the pulp is thrown into a bowl, or umefe, for one night. On the following day it is strained in a basket, with fern leaves round it, in water. The water is allowed to stand so that the grains may settle, and they are then similarly washed about three times. It is then re-strained, but this time into a canoe-shaped umefe, termed the oipuuog, and allowed to settle. The water is poured off, and the whole is churned up backwards and forwards in the umefe with fresh water, so that a scum forms. This is then carefully skimmed off and allowed to settle in an ordinary umefe. After it has settled, the water is poured off, and it is baked in a cocoanut shell, giving a fine orange-coloured powder. The part which has settled in the oipuuog is eaten, made into a feki, or pudding, called tanua.
The mena, when dried, was kept in a cocoanut shell, in the roof of the house. If a chief came into the house, some would be taken, and mixed with cocoanut oil in an umefe puraagi mena, and he would be smeared over the left breast with it. It was also used for smearing the bodies for dancing, and at a feast the mat dresses also were often completely covered. The heads of the kava-chewers, too, were generally thickly smeared, though lime to some extent subsequently took its place. I have one bowl used for the mixing with oil; it was stated to have been a chief's bowl. It is a bowl, cut out of a solid piece of wood about 10 inches long by 7 broad, somewhat oval, but pointed at the two ends. From one end a handle comes off underneath for 6 inches, and has a leg at its end, with, on the outside, a thin piece left projecting with a hole, through which a piece of sinnet was strung, to hang it up by. The edges underneath are left l/6 inch high by 1/4 inch broad, and wedge-shaped pieces every 1/4 inch cut out. Two similar lines run along and across the middle underneath, and on the latter line two more legs, 1 1/2 inches long, are situated. The workmanship, as in all Rotuman carpentry, is very poor, but the roughnesses have to some extent been smoothed by the shark's-skin file.
The purple stain, before mentioned, is used to smear the cheeks for dancing to give them a colour, and also for picking out some of the tattoo marks with, but the ordinary stain for the latter is made from the soot of the seeds of the hifo tree (Calophyllium inophyllum., Linn.), mixed with the oil of the same seeds. To extract the oil, the seeds are allowed simply to rot in a bowl, and the oil is then strained off. To the same oil, or cocoanut oil, sweet-smelling flowers are added to scent it, and the hair is plentifully smeared with it; the whole body, too, after fishing or any exposure to the salt water is smeared with oil.
The men were always tattooed with a pair of drawers, reaching from the waist to just below the knee; the name for this is fuol, but this is also the name of a bivalve shell found on the reef at Matusa, from which the pattern was supposed to be taken. The women, all the old men agreed in saying, never had this, though Duperrey represents one with it, he represents two lines of markings coming off free above the girdle line at the top, but these too I never found on the old men. The design at the knees is finished off likewise with one or more circular marks. Between the surface is roughly divided up into parallelograms about 8 inches long by 3 1/2 inches broad, with dividing lines about 3/4 inch broad. The whole design is in straight lines. Where the body is awkward for the design, the whole is such a mass of tattooing that no pattern can properly be distinguished. Fig. 1 is a typical design of a parallelogram taken from the right hip; the long diameter runs along down the thigh. The instruments used were made from turtle bone, with one to five teeth.
The sas consists of a number of marks on the shoulders and arms of the men. On the left shoulder, immediately above the armpit in front, is a design typical of a bush or flower of some sort. One design, the moiera, represents a bush, which is fairly common; it contains four lines, representing shoots, coming off from one point at angles of 22 1/2° with one another, thus making a right angle between the two shoots furthest apart; it has four leaves on each shoot always on the same side, represented by circles. Another design is the perero (Fig. 2), which is supposed to represent a strong-smelling flower which is commonly given to one's koiluga (sweetheart). Other designs are stars, circles, etc., down as far as the elbow, more or less in series (Figs. 2,3).
The woman's proper tattoo marks were three suun on each arm; these consist of three circles enclosing designs, which are always the same (Fig. 3). Besides these they have the niglolo, consisting of a diagonal mark along each joint of the fingers and a small blot on the hand below the base of the thumb between the palm and the wrist. Below the dress I do not think that there was ever any tattooing.
The old people claim to have had hats before the coming of the white men; they are of two kinds, the fo peru, of cocoanut leaves, and the fo peru papoi, of the bark of the papoi(Cytosperma edulis, Schott). A round block of wood is taken, and, if too small, made by means of leaves, tied on outside, to the requisite size; four pieces of bark or half cocoanut leaflets are crossed in the centre of the top, but sometimes there are four more placed over these. Then, while these are held firm, their ends are split up to the size it is desired to make the plait, and worked over and under one another. Similarly they are worked down the block and to make a broad brim, at the edge of which they are simply finished off by being turned back under the previous plait and cut off short. Very young cocoanut leaves are used and merely run over the fire twice through the flames; they are then dipped in salt water and dried in the sun, after which the midribs of the leaflets are cut out. The bark of the papoi is stripped off and then well scraped with the shells of the ess, a kind of limpet common on the reef, and put into the sun to dry. The same night it is placed in the salt water and again on the following day dried, after which it has a night in fresh water. Hats of this are softer, more durable, and stand rain better than those made from cocoanut leaves.
The isoa is an eyeshade, made of two half cocoanut leaves plaited together, and tied by the midribs behind the head. It is made of the green leaves when required, and has many designs. For an umbrella the leaves of the fan palm, or fokmoro are used.