Bark cloth

Production date
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Object Detail

Bark Cloth - NGATU, dark and light brown design Tongan coat of arms, peace doves, 3 crossed swords
Production place
L3730 x W1890 mm
Media/Materials description
Plant fibre (paper mulberry Brousonetia papyferia)
History and use
This bark cloth is from Tonga. In Tonga, bark cloth or tapa is known as NGATU. The design motifs featured on this piece are the coat of arms and peace doves, and are examples of motifs commonly used in Tonga.

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.

Uploaded to the Web 27 May 2011.
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