Regina A. Meredith Fitiao

Siapo mask, 2021

About the object

This Covid face mask has been made from siapo, also known as tapa. The material is produced by way of a demanding process involving the bark of the paper mulberry tree. The natural dyes were obtained from varying plants, such as turmeric root, bischofia javanica, nuts of candlenut and achiote trees. The American-Samoan artist Reggie Meredith Fitiao made this mask at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic as part of a limited edition of sixty masks. Speaking of the mask, she said: "This siapo mask is a part of a series called "Ole Olaga i le Taimi Nei: Living in the Now". When the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, I felt helpless being far away from many friends, colleagues and family members who were susceptible to getting the disease. I remember thinking that I should make something to keep them safe from this sickness. My instinct led me to what I know best as an artist - barkcloth - u'a - because siapo (Samoan painted barkcloth) - used for so many things, from clothing, to dividers of the home, shrouds, prestigious ceremonies and costumes. To date I have made over 300 siapo masks. The painted ancestral motifs are made of natural dyes from the forest. The patterns define different Samoan cultural concepts and the mask is like a warrior's shield going into battle" (Author: Reggie Meredith Fitiao August 2021).

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