Photographer's Note

Tongan tapa cloth

At the Aotea Square Markets in Auckland City last week I came across this stall where the gentleman was selling sunhats and bags, plus these Tapa Cloths from Tonga. And he kindly said yes when I asked if I could photograph him and his wonderful Tapa cloths. I saw one for sale for $135.

Don't you just love the designs and colours and patterns?

Tongan tapa cloth.
It is made from strips of beaten bark from the mulberry that are stuck together with vegetable glue. A long and skilled process is involved to convert the bark of the mulberry tree into tapa cloth. Some of the unique items made from tapa include: fans, place mats, wall hangings, table cloths and handbags.

The bark is stripped from young saplings, and the white inner layers are peeled off for the tapa. These narrow strips are soaked in water until softened; then they are pounded with grooved mallets, which spreads the bark into increasingly wider strips....

Once the cloth is assembled, the women create the designs by rubbing brown dye into the surface by hand and then outlining the designs with black dye. In the course of making a tapa cloth, they sing traditional songs and informally do special seated dances that tell of the history and bounty of the Tongan nation.

Tongan tapa cloths are still used as bed sheets, dividers for one-room houses, “red carpets” for chiefs, and as gifts to celebrants at ceremonial occasions. Tapa cloths are treasured objects, and for decades many Tongan families have kept their tapas that were made many years ago by their ancestors.

In the late 18th century Captain James Cook visited Tonga and he wrote about these Tapa cloths and told of all the different ways in which it was used. He also brought home to England some pieces of Tapa cloth.

ChrisJ, josepmarin, peter1892, nwoehnl, pranab marcou esta nota como útil

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Additional Photos by Janice Dunn (Janice) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 920 W: 68 N: 1359] (4403)
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