Painted barkcloth »tapa«

About the object

Nice old tapa cloth with extraordinary painted ornamentation. The bast tapa is obtained from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree. By beating with a heavy wooden mallet, the fibres are both stretched and fused together, creating a material that can be painted and processed. In Polynesia, huge sheets of cloth are made from it, which is considered very valuable and only brought out on special occasions, for instance as wrapping for gifts, to serve as a tribute to high-ranking individuals or as a bartering object. The painting is carried out freehand as with this piece or with the help of templates, which are used to arrive at the basic patterns. The patterns have a specific meaning, here you can see pandanus blossoms on the edge of a decorative painting divided up into squares. This tapa presumably comes from Samoa, where it is called Siapo. The nature of the acquisition and the exact origin of the object is unknown.

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