Tapa

About the object

This small piece of barkcloth painted with natural pigments was probably made for sale to tourists or traders. Sheets measuring up to several square meters were fabricated throughout Polynesia. The island of Tongatabu is one of the centres of barkcloth fabrication, as the prevailing conditions for the cultivation of the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetio papyrifera) are excellent there. The tapa mulberry tree -as it is otherwise known - yields the best raw material for the tapa (called ngatu on Tonga). Huge strips of painted or printed tapa cloth were used ceremonially. Indeed, these strips are still made today for festivals or for barter. The processing of the bark into bast fabrics and their decoration is exclusively performed by women. Smaller pieces are made for sale to tourists.

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