A university graduate from Futuna Island in TAFEA Province who holds a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts from New South Wales, Australia is challenging young girls in the islands to make time to learn to weave mats, baskets, fans and all other items which involve weaving.

Eric Natuivi, 66, a retired teacher of Visual Art at Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education, has been congratulated by the Manager of Vanuatu Handikraf Senta, Vanessa Tari, for his initiative to set up a weaving school in Port Vila six years ago.

The purpose of the school is for Futunese weavers to teach young girls from the island to learn how to weave.

The Manager of the Handikraf Senta praised the Matangi Villager for pioneering weaving for girls from Futuna saying teaching weaving is vital not only to Futuna but for the entire country, as without training the next generation how to weave, would threaten the loss of this life skill of cultural heritage of the Ni- Vanuatu people.

She even suggested for weaving to be included as a subject for girls to learn at school.

Looking back at the last six years since the birth of the School, Natuivi describes the outcome as “very satisfying” so far, knowing that it has formalised the path towards promoting and maintaining the nation’s cultural identity.

“I see this as the strongest linkage to connect our young people with their cultural environment back home to promote their cultural pride while keeping their feet on the ground,” he said.

The challenge is that the current urbanisation of the communities and the fluid movement of young people from the villages into the urban centres to enter institutions of learning also threaten to isolates them from knowing how to weave.

Natuivi said it would be constructive to replicate what he has successfully achieved in all the islands and Provinces in the country

Natuivi started the weaving school six years ago with young girls from his community. It was teamwork between him and his wife who he confirms is a fantastic weaver and is teaching the girls.

Asked if he pays the teachers, he replied, “All our teachers are volunteers and they love teaching their students how to weave.

“What we have successfully created is a desk in the Mahimahi Facility after Nambawan Café where we sell our finished products.

“When an item is sold then the earning is split between the School (association) and the weaver so that is here weaver earns an income”.

However since the arrival of COVID-19, the country’s tourism industry has come to a standstill. Both the Handikraf Manager and Natuivi speak with confidence that the imminent lifting of the lockdown on July 1, there will definitely be a turnaround in tourism activity.

Vanuatu Tourism Office Chief Executive Officer, Adela Issachar Aru, said Virgin Blue will resume flying back to Port in 2023, with at least four flights from Australia a week.

This signals the resumption of the arrival of tourists from Australia and New Zealand and beyond.

Currently, a delegation of leaders from Vanuatu Christian Council, Tourism, Trade and Industries are touring the communities on Efate and outer islands throughout the country to explain to chiefs and their people, what the July 1st means when the lockdown is lifted.

The Team makes is clear that it does not mean opening the door for tourists to flood the country. “Tourists will come beginning next year but what we must do is to prepare ourselves how to welcome them, taking into consideration the existing threat of the virus and to tailor our formalities to accommodate the ‘new normal,” an observer said.