Training courses boosting handicraft sales in Tonga
Handicraft makers in Tonga say a number of training courses are increasing their sales and improving the quality of their art, with a huge demand for more training.
Handicraft makers in Tonga say a number of training courses are increasing their sales and improving the quality of their art.
The pilot training programme provided by the Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme, funded by the New Zealand aid programme, is in it's second year.
Organisers say there is now a staggering demand from people wanting to be trained.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
The national coordinator of the Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme, Monalisa Palu, says more than 600 certificates of completion have been handed out since it began. She says the courses have two components, learning the handicrafts skills and marketing and tourism awareness.
MONALISA PALU: So when they're making things, they used to make the big alibaba baskets, but now they understand their customers actually prefer smaller items, that don't take up all their luggage space. So just letting them know more about who they are targetting, and giving them the technical skills.
She says it's all about enhancing people's livelihoods and because the word is getting out, more and more people are requesting to take part. Monalisa Palu says what's been a surprising but very welcome aspect of the programme is the feeling of empowerment it has given people. She says for a long time handicrafts have been seen as something that's low-skilled, and it's importance hasn't been recognised as it should.
MONALISA PALU: Over the past last few months we're glad to say that there is suddenly a stronger appreciation for the hard work that these men and women are doing, because we have found out now from results and evidence that they are supporting their families through the art. So there's a revival of our appreciation of the art, at the same time we know that it actually pays for the bills.
Tangiloto Po'oi has been making a living from selling hand-painted tapa cloth since 1980, and has passed on the skill to her children and grandchildren. Even so, she says the training programme has been helpful in improving her sales, as well as showing her how to present her art to customers in a more professional way.
TANGILOTO PO'OI: It's improving my skills and knowledge that I have to advertise my work to the customers. Before, I'd just explain it to them. But now I'm trying a little note selling together with the work, of how I make it and the prices and the values and also the meaning.
Organisers have also conducted surveys to find out what craft tourists like to buy, and teach them that people are willing to pay a good price for well made pieces. Veuveuso Vaea began selling his hand-painted tapa after attending a number of the courses, and now supports his family through the craft.
VEVEUSO VAEA: This my first time to work the handicraft when the workshop finished. They teach me everything. They developed my knowledge about the work with the tapa and selling the tapa. It's very helpful for my knowledge, and helpful for my family. It's good money to support my family.
The Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme will be in it's final year next year. Monalisa Palu says she is already trying to come up with ways of making the project sustainable so the organisation can continue its work with local artisans.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: