Made in the Dark

“Made in the Dark” are a husband and wife team; Mara Tauilili Smitlen and Tologataua Natopai Tauiliili SMITLEN (Norman).

Norman is completely blind and Mara has limited vision. For the past 10 years, Norman has designed and made handwoven bags from strapping tape. Mara finishes and decorates them.

Norman with Mara at the Generator filming.

 The bags include handbags, shopping bags (in response to the removal of plastic bags), sturdy laundry bags. The bags sell like hot cakes in New Zealand and Samoa.

Even though he is blind, Norman creates the designs for the bags in his head before he starts to weave.  No two bags are alike. Quality control is tight, no bag is sold unless it's 100%, Weaving the bags has helped the couple to remain physically fit as well as utilise their creativity and brain as they identify how to cut down on wastage. The income earnt from the bags provides a much-needed supplement to their income and enables them to buy further resources.

The Generator provided materials and tables so the couple does not have to use their pension to buy the strappings and flowers. This has resulted in less pressure and stress for the couple as they now have the funds to buy the resources they need and have a supplementary income to share with their family.


Vaka Tautua is a national “by Pacific for Pacific” health and social services provider. Established in 2007 by the PIASS and Malologa Trusts, we are a not-for-profit limited liability company registered with the Charities Commission.

We meet industry standards and have quality accreditation. We hold DAA Group Certification against Standard NZS 8134:2008 Health and Disability Services; Ministry of Social Development Social Sector Accreditation Standards Level 2, and Accreditation as a Living Wage employer.

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