Tapa gift marks Tongan thanks

Treasure from Tonga: Theresa Veikoso, left, with Marlborough provincial branch International officer Glenda Robb and the tapa cloth. Mrs Veikoso's 18-month-old twins, Sanimata, left, and Adolf, share the occasion.
EMMA ALLEN
Treasure from Tonga: Theresa Veikoso, left, with Marlborough provincial branch International officer Glenda Robb and the tapa cloth. Mrs Veikoso's 18-month-old twins, Sanimata, left, and Adolf, share the occasion.

Marlborough Rural Women yesterday accepted a gift of a large tapa cloth made by women in Tonga.

Rural Women Marlborough provincial branch international officer Melva Robb said each year the group focused on a different country. Last year the theme was Tonga and Marlborough woman Theresa Veikoso spoke to the group about her Tongan homeland's culture.

Miss Robb said that after Mrs Veikoso spoke to them the Marlborough women were inspired to help the Tongan community in some way. Mrs Veikoso suggested money they raised could go to a group making traditional tapa cloth, led by her aunt.

The money was used to buy backing fabric used to make up to 50 metre-long tapa cloth, Mrs Veikoso said.

To mark their thanks for the gift of money, the Tongan women made the Rural Women Marlborough provincial branch a tapa which covered the top table at the group's annual general meeting in Blenheim yesterday.

Mrs Veikoso said the Tongan women saw the gift as a blessing and were amazed that rural women in Marlborough would help in this way.

Tongan women make tapa cloth and mats from the inner bark of specially planted trees. The bark is soaked in water overnight, then placed flat and beaten to make tapa pieces, later joined to make large mats.

This year the group would study Ireland, Miss Robb said.

The Marlborough Express