Bark cloth - Tapa

Production date
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Object detail

Bark cloth, square in shape featuring Tongan coat-of-arms in the centre and decorative geometric border.
INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander bark cloth
Production date
Production place
L355 x W300mm
Media/Materials description
Plant fibre (paper mulberry Brousonetia papyferia)
Natural pigments
History and use
Bark Cloth or tapa is known as NGATU in Tonga. This piece features the Tongan Coat of Arms, which is a tapa motif known to mark historical events.

Tapa, ngatu, kapa, masi, lepau and siapo are names used across the Pacific for barkcloth. Each place and people has their own unique way for making their barkcloth. Some are made by women but in some place men also make bark cloth.

The use of tapa is also a way for people from the Pacific Islands diaspora to continue their alignment and identification with island practices.

Tapa can be used in everyday life as a wall divider, curtain, tablecloth, decorative wall hanging, place mat, blanket or can be worn in a style of an apron, cape, poncho, skirt, hat and bags.

Tapa is also used for special ceremonies like births, initiations, deaths and marriages. It is also used during celebrations at special family gatherings like homecomings, feasting, at community meetings, and graduations. Many Islanders consider tapa an important element in the practice of gift giving.
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