Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability

CAS Anthropology Collections Database

Catalog Number

CAS 1984-0008-0360   CAS 1984-0008-0360; Tapa cloth
Category Textiles
Object Name Tapa cloth
Culture Polynesian: Tongan
Global Region Oceania
Country Tonga
Other Geographic Data unknown
Maker's Name Unknown
Date of Manufacture ca. 1920s
Collection Name Rollo Beck Collection (South Pacific)
Materials Paper mulberry bark; Dyes
Description Very large rectangular tapa cloth, made from strips of paper mulberry bark that have been beaten into thin sheets, which are overlapped to form the larger cloth; Design field is divided horizontally across center into halves and each half is subdivided into 4 elongated panels near the center and 4 nearly square panels at the ends; The elongated panels, separated by bands of negative zigzags, are decorated with several large motifs including necklaces or leis, fans, and rings with occasional large black dots, representing the fruit of the hea tree, and accompanied by the word "FAKALALA O PILOLEVU", referring to the named design "fakalala"; Each elongated panel is bordered on one end by a band of fern or palm-like motifs that are accompanied by the word "SISI O APUO PILOLEVU"; Square panels at each end of cloth are undecorated, except for measurement markings; All design motifs are applied with a kupesi or rubbing tablet and then over-painted in dark brown; Only the area around the kupesi and the actual motif were rubbed, leaving the surrounding areas of the cloth a natural off-white color; Series of narrow parallel brown lines in background around motifs indicates cloth was made on worktable that was strung with sennit cord; Cloth has been cut along both sides.
Dimensions (cm) Width = 198.0, Length = 455.0