Barkcloth - ROM2017_15854_6



Maker: Unidentified Artist
Medium:Cloth, paint
Geography: Fiji, Melanesia
Date: before 1971
252 x 153 cm
Object number: 971.313.1
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. L. Achmatowicz
On view
Gallery Location:

Across the Pacific islands—from Samoa to Easter Island—women have created soft and beautiful cloth from an unlikely source, tree bark. They artfully transform the rough material by removing the outer bark, then pounding the inner bark with wooden beaters that flattens and meshes the material into large thin sheets. Often they decorate it with elaborate painted designs.

Known by various names, notably tapa, the cloth was used for dress, floor mats, making masks, and wrapping sacred objects. Sheets up to 183 metres were paraded with rulers as signs of wealth.

Due to the cloth’s deep social, artistic, and religious meanings, women in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and some parts of New Guinea continue to make the cloth—some people choosing to wear it for special ceremonies.

If you see an error or have additional information, please contact us by clicking here.