BY CHRIS ALEX
RENNELL and Bellona province, sometimes known as Renbel in the Solomon Islands, is renowned for its rich Polynesian cultural heritage and traditional crafts, and it has produced a number of highly specialized weavers and artisans who have preserved their ancient and traditional art of weaving and also earn a livelihood.
Among them is Francina Paikea, a 38-year-old entrepreneur who has transformed her passion for traditional weaving into a thriving online business based in Honiara. Inspired by her mother’s traditional talent for weaving, she embarked on a lifelong journey of artistic expression and entrepreneurship.
From the young age of nine, she developed an attraction for Renbel’s traditional art of weaving. Guided by her mother, a skilled weaver herself, she eagerly absorbed every aspect of the many different types of traditional crafts and handicrafts, despite her young age.
“I was very young when I started to learn the craft of weaving from my mum. I observe my mother, who taught me the whole process of weaving our traditional custom handbags in different forms, shapes, and patterns.
“Weaving is a skill common to the women of Rennell-Bellona Province, and I want to preserve and promote the Renbel ancient art of weaving, which is only known and used by the people of the two islands of Rennell and Bellona.
“The art of weaving holds significant cultural importance in Rennell and Bellona, passed down through generations, and with each design and pattern, it carries a unique story,” Francina told SOLOMON WOMEN.
Her passion for the traditional art of weaving has led her to create ‘Inspired Arts’ on Facebook, which serves as a social media platform to promote and engage with her customers through the sales and marketing of her different types of traditional handmade crafts.
As a local entrepreneur, Francina’s online business successfully provides the following services through a diverse range of traditional handmade products: custom baskets (handbags), necklaces, earrings, bible covers, purses, cell phone cases, and other handmade creations.
Despite her modest beginnings, she has set her sights on expanding her small online business into a significant enterprise. To achieve this, she seeks to tap into international markets and establish a consistent customer base abroad.
“By showcasing the unique weaving designs and styles of Renbel Province, ‘Inspired Arts’ aims to capture the attention of customers from different countries, providing an avenue for growth and success,” she said.
Meanwhile, Francina believes that anyone with talent can make a difference and encourages every woman to learn their diverse ancient art of weaving from their respective provinces in the country, not only for household purposes but also as a means to generate income.
Her dedication to preserving Renbel’s ancient art of weaving exemplifies her commitment to the cultural heritage of Renbel Province.
As she continues to weave her dreams into reality, ‘Inspired Arts’ serves as a testament to the power of passion, entrepreneurship, and artistic expression. Through her remarkable journey, she not only brings economic opportunities to her community but also contributes to the preservation of her rich Polynesian cultural heritage. With each creation, she weaves a story of resilience, creativity, and the enduring spirit of Renbel Province.