Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fresh off the field: Bartering and Selling Mats in Tonga

The following fieldwork report speaks to our conversation about barter in class today. Here the bartering goes hand in hand with other market exchanges. Further, the system is of a dual structure:

"Kau tou lālanga is a group of Tongan women who collectively weave one another’s fine pandanus mats to barter and sell. Their prime customers are Tongan women living in diasporic communities around the Pacific Rim. Our research has determined two business negotiations of kau tou lālanga: firstly, to weave per lineal foot, also known as ‘iate, and secondly, to weave towards a ‘gathering’, or kātoanga. An ‘iate negotiation starts with a customer, usually a local person, making an order to a collective to weave one or two mats—only a small quantity. The second negotiation, kātoanga, is a gathering between a number of weavers from a collective and a group of customers, who are mostly Tongan women from overseas. Before a kātoanga, the parties involved negotiate the large number of mats to be exchanged, the sum of cash for the order, and the date and venue of their gathering is also agreed upon. Kātoangaagreements reach higher annual returns than ‘iate negotiations." To read the full report follow link.