Sennit is a type of cordage made by plaiting strands of dried fibre or grass. It can be used ornamentally in crafts, like a kind of macrame, or to make straw hats. Sennit is an important material in the cultures of Oceania, where it is used in traditional architecture, boat building, fishing and as an ornamentation.[1]

Magimagi - Mainbeam
Magimagi sennit of Fiji around wooden ceiling posts.


A sacred god figure wrapping in sennit for the Tahitian war god 'Oro.
PSM V40 D217 South seas carved ceremonial stone adze
Polynesian ceremonial stone adze (toʻi or toki in Polynesian languages) lashed in sennit around the blade with carved handle, 1891-1892


Sennit in Tonga is called kafa.


The Fijian term used is magimagi, a craft product of the Fiji Islands.


The term is also used in Hawaii and throughout Polynesia for cordage made by braiding the fibers of coconut husks. It was important in attaching the ʻama (outrigger float) via the iako (spars) to the hull of canoes, stones to war-club handles, erecting hale (houses), etc.


In the Samoan language, sennit is called ʻafa. It was used as cordage in the construction of traditional Samoan architecture, boat building with many other functional uses. ʻAfa is handmade from dried coconut fibre from the husk of certain varieties of coconuts with long fibres, particularly the niu'afa (afa palm).[2]

Sennit is mentioned in Robert Gibbings book Over the Reefs (1948).[3] He refers to its use in Samoa in 1946, where he was able to observe its being made on many occasions. He notes that its crafting was a constant occupation in Samoan villages, because so much of the material was required. A significant quote from the book, made by a village chief to Gibbings, emphasises the importance of sennit in Samoan culture: "In your country," said a chief to me, "only a few men can make nails, but in Samoa, everyone can make nails" (p. 118). He was referring to the sennit that is used to bind the structures or huts in which they lived. Sennit had a variety of other uses, including in shark fishing, where it was used as a noose that was placed over the shark's head as it came alongside the canoe.

"They showed me the sennit noose they had used—five years old and as good as new. They said it would last another five years if cared for." Robert Gribbings.

See also

  • Chain sinnet
  • Sennit hat (also known as a boater, straw boater, basher, skimmer, cady, katie, canotier, somer, or in Japan, can-can hat, suruken)


  1. ^ Hiroa, Te Rangi (1964). Vikings of the Sunrise. New Zealand: Whitecombe and Tombs Ltd. p. 27. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  2. ^ Grattan, F.J.H. (1985). An Introduction to Samoan Custom. New Zealand: R. McMillan. pp. 164, 165. ISBN 0-908712-13-8. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Over the Reefs", J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1948.
Architecture of Samoa

The architecture of Samoa is characterised by openness, with the design mirroring the culture and life of the Samoan people who inhabit the Samoa Islands. Architectural concepts are incorporated into Samoan proverbs, oratory and metaphors, as well as linking to other art forms in Samoa, such as boat building and tattooing. The spaces outside and inside of traditional Samoan architecture are part of cultural form, ceremony and ritual.

Fale is the Samoan word for all types of houses, from small to large.

In general, traditional Samoan architecture is characterized by an oval or circular shape, with wooden posts holding up a domed roof. There are no walls. The base of the architecture is a skeleton frame.

Before European arrival and the availability of Western materials, a Samoan fale did not use any metal in its construction.


Baggywrinkle is a soft covering for cables (or any other obstructions) to reduce sail chafe. There are many points in the rig of a large sailing ship where the sails come into contact with the standing rigging; unprotected sails would soon develop holes at the points of contact. Baggywrinkle provides a softer wearing surface for the sail.

Baggywrinkle is made from short pieces of yarn cut from old lines that have been taken out of service. Two parallel lengths of marline are stretched between fixed points, and the lengths of yarn are attached using a hitch called a "railroad sennit". This creates a long, shaggy fringe which, when the marline is wound around a cable, becomes a large hairy cylinder.


A boater (also straw boater, basher, skimmer, The English Panama, cady, katie, canotier, somer, sennit hat, or in Japan, can-can hat, suruken) is a semi-formal summer hat for men, which was popularised in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

It is normally made of stiff sennit straw and has a stiff flat crown and brim, typically with a solid or striped grosgrain ribbon around the crown. Boaters were popular as summer headgear, especially for boating or sailing, hence the name. They were supposedly worn by FBI agents as a sort of unofficial uniform in the pre-World War II years. It was also worn by women, often with hatpins to keep it in place. Nowadays they are rarely seen except at sailing or rowing events, period-related theatrical and musical performances (e.g. barbershop music) or as part of old-fashioned school uniforms. Since 1952, the straw boater hat has been part of the uniform of the Princeton University Band, notably featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine in October 1955. Recently, soft, thin straw hats with the approximate shape of a boater have been in fashion among women.

The boater is a semi-formal hat, equivalent in formality to the Homburg and the bowler. As such, it is correctly worn either in its original setting with a blazer, or in the same situations as a Homburg, such as a smart lounge suit, or with black tie. John Jacob Astor IV was known for wearing such hats. Actors Harold Lloyd and Maurice Chevalier and the Italian engineer Stefano Zacchè were also famous for their trademark boater hats.

Inexpensive foam or plastic boaters are sometimes seen at political rallies in the United States.In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa the boater is still a common part of the school uniform in many boys' schools, such as at Harrow School, Shore School, Brisbane Boys' College, Knox Grammar School, Maritzburg College, South African College School, St John's College (Johannesburg, South Africa), Wynberg Boys' High School, Parktown Boys' High School and numerous Christian Brothers schools (CCB).

The boater may also be seen worn by the "carreiros" of Madeira, the drivers of the traditional wicker toboggans carrying visitors from the parish church at Monte (Funchal) down towards Funchal centre.

Coco Chanel was fond of wearing boaters and made them fashionable among women during the early 20th century.Boater hats of the late 19th century fin de siècle until World War I usually had wider brims than those afterwards.


Camakau (Fijian pronunciation: [ða ma kau]) are a traditional watercraft of Fiji. Part of the broader Austronesian tradition, they are similar to catamarans, outrigger canoes, or smaller versions of the drua, but are larger than a takia.

Chain sinnet

A chain sinnet (or chain sennit) is a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine.

Fireman's chair knot

A fireman's chair knot (or simply chair knot) is a knot tied in the bight forming two adjustable, lockable loops. The knot consists of a handcuff knot finished with a locking half hitch around each loop. The loops remain adjustable until the half hitches are tightened.

Halyard bend

Halyard bend is a way to attach the end of a rope at right angle to a cylindrical object such as a beam.

History of knotting

Knots and knotting have been used and studied throughout history. For example, Chinese knotting is a decorative handicraft art that began as a form of Chinese folk art in the Tang and Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) in China, later popularized in the Ming. Knot theory is the recent mathematical study of unknots.

Knots of ancient origin include the bottle sling, bowline, cat's paw, clove hitch, cow hitch, double fisherman's knot, eskimo bowline, figure-eight knot, fisherman's knot, half hitch, kalmyk loop, one-sided overhand bend, overhand knot, overhand loop, reef knot, running bowline, single hitch, thief knot, Turk's head knot, and two half-hitches.

The eleven main knots of Chinese knotting are the four-flower knot, six-flower knot, Chinese button knot, double connection knot, double coin knot, agemaki, cross knot, square knot, Plafond knot, Pan Chang knot, and the good luck knot.

Knots of more recent origin include the friendship knot of Chinese knotting. The sheepshank knot originates from 1627 while the Western Union splice originates from the beginning of telegraphy.

Kia kaha

Kia kaha is a Māori phrase used by the people of New Zealand as an affirmation, meaning stay strong. The phrase has significant meaning for Māori: popularised through its usage by the 28th Māori Battalion during World War II, it is found in titles of books and songs, as well as a motto.

Linguistically, kia kaha consists of the desiderative verbal particle kia, used here as 'an encouragement to achieve the state named', that is, to achieve kaha or strength. Kaha derives from Proto-Polynesian *kafa, meaning "strong" or "great"; *kafa is also the Proto-Polynesian term for sennit rope, a strong rope made from coconut fibres and used for lashing canoes, weapons, and buildings together.

Killick hitch

The killick hitch is a type of hitch knot used to attach a rope to oddly shaped objects. This knot is also known as the kelleg hitch. It is a combination of a timber hitch tied in conjunction with a half hitch, which is added to lend support and stability when pulling or hoisting the object; the addition of a half-hitch in front of the timber hitch creates a timber hitch and a half hitch, known as a killick hitch when at sea. A killick is "a small anchor or weight for mooring a boat, sometimes consisting of a stone secured by pieces of wood".

List of decorative knots

A decorative or ornamental knot (also fancy knot) is an often complex knot exhibiting repeating patterns. A decorative knot is generally a knot that not only has practical use but is also known for its aesthetic qualities. Often originating from maritime use, "decorative knots are not only serviceable and functional but also enhance the ship-shape appearance of any vessel." Decorative knots may be used alone or in combination, and may consist of single or multiple strands.

Though the word decorative sometimes implies that little or no function is served, the craft of decorative knot tying generally combines both form and function.


Macramé is a form of textile produced using knotting (rather than weaving or knitting) techniques.

The primary knots of macrame are the square (or reef knot) and forms of "hitching": various combinations of half hitches. It was long crafted by sailors, especially in elaborate or ornamental knotting forms, to cover anything from knife handles to bottles to parts of ships.

Cavandoli macramé is one variety that is used to form geometric and free-form patterns like weaving. The Cavandoli style is done mainly in a single knot, the double half-hitch knot. Reverse half hitches are sometimes used to maintain balance when working left and right halves of a balanced piece.

Leather or fabric belts are another accessory often created via macramé techniques. Most friendship bracelets exchanged among schoolchildren and teens are created using this method. Vendors at theme parks, malls, seasonal fairs and other public places may sell macramé jewellery or decoration as well.


Magimagi is a fibrous product made from coconut husk.The process of weaving the husk into the traditional look is very labor-intensive. The earliest record of the unique Magimagi design is listed in the Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition by Wilkes (Wilkes, 1845). Concerning the bures that were on the island Wilkes says, “The walls and roof of the mbure [bure] are constructed of canes about the size of a finger, and each one is wound round with sennit [Magimagi] as thick as cod-line, made from the cocoa-nut husk” (p. 119). The forefathers of the current inhabitants of the Vulaga islands used Magimagi in the construction of their houses and canoes. The unique weaved design is accomplished by Vulaga teams that are able to design many graphics into the look.

Magimagi coconut trees take about five years to bear fruit. The husks from the nuts are braided and woven into a strong, thin rope "as thick as a cod line". The Magimagi coconut only grows in the Lau group of island in the nation of Fiji Islands. This scarce natural resource is weaved into artistic beauty by the people of Vulaga who are the originators of this unique talent.

Pohnpeian language

Pohnpeian, is a Micronesian language spoken as the indigenous language of the island of Pohnpei in the Caroline Islands. Pohnpeian has approximately 30,000 (estimated) native speakers living in Pohnpei and its outlying atolls and islands with another 10,000-15,000 (estimated) living off island in parts of the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam. It is the second-most widely spoken native language of the Federated States of Micronesia.Pohnpeian features a "high language" including some specialized vocabulary, used in speaking about people of high rank.

Puna (mythology)

In the Polynesian mythology of the Tuamotu archipelago in the South Pacific, Puna is the king of Hiti-marama or of Vavau, depending on the story.In one story, Vahieroa weds Matamata-taua, also called Tahiti To‘erau. On the night of their son Rata's birth, the parents go fishing. They are snatched away by the demon bird belonging to the Puna, king of Hiti-marama, "an island north of [present-day] Pitcairn and Elizabeth but long since swallowed in the sea." The bird Matatata‘ota‘o bites off the chief's head and swallows it whole. The wife is placed head downward as a food holder in the house of Puna's wife Te-vahine-hua-rei (Beckwith 1970:261).

In a second version, Vahi-vero is the son of Kui, a demigod of Hawaiki, and a goblin woman named Rima-roa. Kui plants food trees and vegetables and is also a great fisherman. The goblin woman Rima-roa robs his garden; he lies in wait and seizes her, and she bears him the son Vahi-vero. Vahi-vero visits a pool from which the beautiful Tahiti-tokerau daily emerges. Kui teaches him how to lie in wait and seize her, and never let her go until she says his name. Having mastered her, he finds that Puna, king of Vavau, is his rival.

Vahi-vero goes by way of the pool to the place where Puna guards the girl in a house with round ends, and leaves her sister Huarehu in her place, taking Tahiti-tokerau away with him. Tahiti-tokerau bears him the boy Rata. Puna comes in shark form for vengeance and kills Vahi-vero before taking his wife back. He turns her eyes into lights for her sister to make sennit (magi-magi) and her feet into supports for the sister's work basket (Beckwith 1970:261).

Sina and the Eel

Sina and the Eel is a myth of origins in Samoan mythology, which explains the origins of the first coconut tree.In the Samoan language the legend is called Sina ma le Tuna. Tuna is the Samoan word for 'eel'.The story is also well known throughout Polynesia including Tonga, Fiji and Māori in New Zealand.Different versions of the legend are told in different countries in Oceania. The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) has many uses and is an important source of food. It is also used for making coconut oil, baskets, sennit rope used in traditional Samoan house building, weaving and for the building of small traditional houses or fale. The dried meat of the coconut or copra has been an important export product and a source of income throughout the Pacific.

The legend of Sina and the Eel is associated with other figures in Polynesian mythology such as Hina, Tinilau, Tagaloa and Nafanua.

Sina is also the name of various female figures in Polynesian mythology. The word sina also means 'white' or silver haired (grey haired in age) in the Samoan language. There is also an old Samoan song called Soufuna Sina based on a Sina legend.

Triple crown knot

The triple crown knot is a double loop knot. It is secure and symmetrical, but can jam when tightened.


The ʻūkēkē is a musical bow made of koa wood, 16 to 24 inches long and about 1½ inches wide with two or three strings fastened through and around either end, tuned to an A major triad. Prior to the introduction of steel strings, gut or sennit (coconut fibre) were used.

The strings were strummed with one hand while the other hand kept the ʻūkēkē in position. The mouth would then act as a resonating chamber. The old experts made no sound with the vocal cords, but the mouth acted as a resonance chamber. The resulting sound suggested speech and trained persons could understand. It was sometimes used for love making.

The ʻūkēkē is the only stringed instrument indigenous to Hawaii, with other Hawaiian string instruments like the ukulele and slack-key guitar having been introduced by European sailors and settlers.


In Tuamotu mythology, Vahi-vero is the son of the demigod Kui and a goblin woman named Rima-roa.

Kui plants food trees and is also a great fisherman. The goblin woman Rima-roa robs his garden; he lies in wait and seizes her and she bears him the son Vahi-vero.

Vahi-vero visits a pool from which the beautiful Tahiti-tokerau daily emerges. Kui teaches him how to lie in wait and seize her and never let her go until she pronounces his name. Having mastered her, he finds that Puna, king of Vavau, is his rival. He goes by way of the pool to the place where Puna guards the girl in a house with round ends, and brings her back with him, leaving her sister Huarehu in her place. Tahiti-tokerau bears to him the boy Rata. Puna comes in shark form to avenge himself, kills Vahi-vero and takes his wife back and makes of her eyes lights for her sister to do sennit work by and of her feet supports for the sister's work basket (Beckwith 1970:261).

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