Usage – ways of dressing and others
After exploring the different factors that are involved in decorative development, some examples allow the evocation of the role and place that fabrics play in the social life, as marks of identity, such as elements of profane or religious rituals or as vectors of artistic expression.
The majority of decorated fabrics that enter into social rituals, or have a symbolic function with their patterns or colours, are mainly clothing but they can also have other profane or ceremonial uses.
Plait Vanuatu, beginning of the 20th century Pandanus fibre leaf 71.1947.34.1
For the length and symbolism of dyed patterns, such plaits are highly valued in exchange and can even be used as shrouds. The meaning of the patterns, which is more or less secret, is passed on by oral tradition. In a general manner, patterns have a ritual function and a textile piece thus decorated marks social status. This particular plait, collected at Ambae, was probably made at Whitsun. Plaiting and dyeing are activities that are exclusively female and this practice is still continued today. The pandanus fibre is plaited, then the plait is put on a log and stencils cut in the shape of banana petals which are then applied and fixed with the help of thin vegetable cords. Thus, several group patterns will follow one another along the length of the piece. The dye is made in a boiling bath with the use of firewood : the dyeing substance of vegetable origin comes from the root of Ventilago neocaledonica.