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Encyclopedia > Masi (Fiji)

Tapa cloth (or simply tapa) is a bark cloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga and Samoa, but as far afield as Java, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Java (Indonesian, Javanese, and Sundanese: Jawa) is an island of Indonesia, and the site of its capital city, Jakarta. ... Official language(s) Hawaiian and English Capital Largest city Honolulu Honolulu Area  - Total   - Width   - Length    - % water  - Latitude  - Longitude Ranked 43rd 10,941 sq mi  28,337 km² n/a miles  n/a km 1,522 miles  2,450 km 41. ...


The cloth is known by a number of local names, although the term tapa is understood throughout the islands that use the cloth. In Tonga, Tapa is also known as Ngatu, and here it is of great social importance to the islanders, often being given as gifts. In Samoa, the same cloth is called Siapo. In Hawaii, it is known as kapa, the two words ta and pa meaning "The beaten object". This is probably close to the original meaning of the broader term to which it appears similar.


In Fiji it is called Masi, after the Paper Mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera) whose bark is used in the creation of the cloth. This tree, native to Eastern Asia, was brought to the Pacific during voyages of migration. A paper mulberry is a tree that grows in East Asia. ... World map showing the location of Asia. ... For other meanings of Pacific, see Pacific (disambiguation). ...


Tapa is made by a variety of different methods, of which that used in Tonga is fairly typical. Here, Paper Mulberry tree bark is stripped from the tree and sun-dried before being soaked. After this, the bark is beaten on wooden tutua anvils using wooden mallets called ike. After beating, the cloth is placed on dyed wooden blocks for the application of traditional patterns in horizontal bands across the cloth, before it is again dried. After drying, details are added to the patterns by hand using brushes.


The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometrical patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants, for example four stylised leaves forming a diagonal cross. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colours are also known.


The cloth is primarily used for clothing, and is often worn on formal occasions such as weddings. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often found used to hang on the walls as a decoration..

Tapa from the Lau Island Group of Fiji
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Tapa from the Lau Island Group of Fiji

External links

  • Tapa in the Pacific Islands
  • New Zealand Ministry of Pacific island Affairs - Tapa in Tonga
  • Kew Gardens bark cloth webpage
  • Tapa cloth
  • Fijian masi-making

 
 

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