The people of Southern Lau are renowned as fine artisans, with the women skilled makers of tapa cloth and the men, particularly from Kabara, well-known as the best woodcarvers in Fiji. You’ll find examples of their work, mostly in the form of tanoa bowls, readily available in the handicraft markets around Suva or in the more expensive souvenir shops in Nadi. Unfortunately, most of the region’s hardwood vesi trees – the best species for woodcarving – have been cut down and the islanders are being encouraged to plant the faster-growing sandalwood, known locally as yasi, as an alternative.
As well as tapa cloth and woodcarving, Lau islanders produce the coarse twine known as magimagi. Commonly seen binding together bures, magimagi comes from the fibres of a coconut husk, baked in the sun, soaked in the sea and briskly rubbed together to make long threads. The threads are meticulously braided to form a strong twine, often several kilometres in length. Magimagi was once used to lash together the parts of a canoe, although today it is most often seen extending from a tanoa or kava bowl towards the person of highest rank, or attached to either end of a tabua or whale’s tooth.