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Object: Kato alu (woven ceremonial basket)

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Title Kato alu (woven ceremonial basket)
Production Unknown, circa 1990s, Tonga
Medium summary 1) plant material - alu (epipremnum pinnatum) 2.) plant fibre - midrib of coconut leaves (Cocos nucifera)
Materials plant material, plant fibre
Classification ceremonial objects, baskets
Technique weaving
Credit line Purchased 1997 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number FE011063

This oval shaped kato alu (woven ceremonial basket) is made from the roots of the alu plant and tu'aniu (coconut midribs) and has not been dyed or further ornamented.

Kato alu
Kato alu are one of several types of baskets that were made in Tonga as early as the eighteenth century. Kato alu are said to originate from the island of 'Eua, which is southeast of Tongatapu, the main group of islands of Tonga. They were first noted by Captain Cook in 1777 and examples were collected during his voyages. Kato alu are significant Tongan cultural items of exchange and are often presented as gifts during weddings, funerals, and birthdays. They are also works of great artistry, skill, and ingenuity.

Art in construction
The art of kato alu is primarily in the construction. Each kato alu is woven from carefully prepared roots and the midribs of coconut leaves. The lengthy and complex production process involves a number of stages - plant harvesting, cooking, weaving, and decoration - before the basket is ready to be ceremonially exchanged.

Past and present
Kato alu continue to be made today, as do a modern version known as kato teu (decorated ceremonial baskets). While both are valued and used in the same way, there is a distinction between them. The art of kato alu is in the preparation process, the weaving technique, and decorations. The art of kato teu, on the other hand, lies in the ingenuity and creativity that goes into decorating ready-made baskets.

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Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.