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Spiders play a significant role in the lives and beliefs of many cultures in northern Vanuatu.
Spider motifs appear in paintings and tattoos in the Banks Islands in the far north. In southern Malakula island spider web cloth is used as a base for much sacred artwork as well as male ritual head and body coverings. In this area 'spider spirit' men partake in aspects of complex male funerary rituals, emphasising the important role certain spider spirits play in the early stages of life after death.
Spider web cloth
In southern Malakula (and to certain extent Ambrym), spider webs are collected to make cloth which is used for ritual material. This cloth is supple, but tough and hard-wearing. It is also fairly waterproof and resistant to rot.
Making spider web cloth
Webs are collected on a bamboo pole which has been splayed open at one end. People walk through the bush in the morning, pulling down spider webs with the pole, the webs accumulate on the pole until a thick, matted cloth is formed when it is thick enough, the spider web cloth is slipped off the narrow end of the bamboo pole.