By: Phyllis S. Herda
The western Polynesian islands of Tonga have a long tradition of textiles (barkcloth and fine plaited mats) being valued as items of significance and wealth. Recently Tongan women have expanded this textile repertoire to include machine-made quilts and an identifiable Tongan style of quilts is emerging. Tongan quilts are now a prominent feature of grave decorations. In addition, they are displayed and presented at a wide variety of functions including births, weddings, anniversaries, title installations, and royal celebrations. The introduction of and acceptance of quilts to this repertoire is inextricably linked to establishment of Tongan migrant communities overseas – especially in the United States. This paper examines Tongan quilts, the social and political occasions in which they are ritualized as well as the diasporic effects on quiltmaking and on the display and presentation of quilts.