Tongan handicrafts are renown for their patterns and textures and they play an important role in Tongan society.
Tonga is renown for its large and elaborate tapa cloths. Mats are another important item. Pandanus leaves laid out in the sun for drying and usaully a group of women will weave these into mats. Both Tapas and mats are are used in important occassions like births, marriages, and funerals. They are are also a measure of wealth and status.
Wood carvings were at one time an important part of Tongan culture. With little natural forests remaining on the main island (Tongatapu), this art form is dwindling and wooden artefacts found in the market today are generally for tourists and not really the traditional form.
To purchase handicrafts, the best starting place is at the Womens Handicraft Centre in the heart of Nukualofa on Tongatapu. Some fine examples of traditional craft can be seen at the Tongan National Centre near Vaiola.