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Published: 19 June 2021

By Andy Ross

Discovering Textiles - Santa Cruz banana weaving

The island grouping of Santa Cruz in the Pacific's Solomon Islands boast an impressive diversity of bananas and may have played a role in the domestication of the species. 

The fibrous qualities of the banana plant are useful for weavers. Many 19th and early 20th century museum collections around the world hold banana fibre bags, made on backstrap looms and worn by men to hold betel. The example in the pictures is in the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent, England and other examples, some made for tourists, can be seen in Stirling, Scotland, Te Papa in New Zealand, and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in New South Wales, Australia.  There is also an apron that combines banana and pandanus fibres in the British Museum collection (Image below from the British Museum used through Creative Commons licence.)

The preparation of banana fibres is arduous. The bracts are collected and pulped with a wooden beater before the mass is wiped clean and hung out to dry, The tangled fibres are then combed and tied together to form the lengths that are necessary for weaving.