By Liz Cotterell
While in Choiseul I was very keen to track down a few kastom string bags (or “kuza“), after hearing a lot about them from my friends and colleagues in Honiara. Luckily I found some! These bags are in demand from Solomon Island ladies because they are light and strong and can hold a lot. They are also completely organic!
A lot of work goes into these bags, as I discovered after speaking with a few of the ladies who make them… They are made from the bark of the tulip tree, sheets of which are soaked in seawater and then dried in the sun. Once dry, the bark is separated into fibres, which are rolled on the thigh to make twine. It is this process that takes all the time – a simple market bag (diagonal mesh) can take up to one month to make, and a more detailed “bubuzai” type bag (square mesh, reinforced) can take 3-4 months.
Generally the women charge around $50 for a basic market bag and $100-200 for a more complicated design or a larger bag. It may seem a lot, but next time you think about haggling, remember how long they have taken to make!