Tapa is a elaborately decorated mulberry bark cloth, considered part of a families' wealth in Polynesia.

Tapa is exchanged as a gift at important events such as weddings, funerals, graduations, or events involving royalty. It is also used in dancing costumes and wedding coverings and as wall hangings for decorating the interior of homes.

To prepares the tapa, the bark of the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera) is taken from young trees in thin strips. After left to dry for a few days, the inner bark (hiapo) is removed from the outer bark and soaked in water, then beaten with a toa (ironwood) 'ike (mallet) on a wooden surface called a tutua in order to distinguish the fibres

In this way, small sections (feta'aki) are created and folded with other sections to create long strips (langanga). These strips are pasted using partially cooked manioc.

To decorate the tapa, coconut fronds are sewn in the desired pattern onto woven pandanus and used to outline the pattern. The tapa are rubbed with natural vegetable dyes and later hand-painted to bring out further relief of the patterns

In Tonga the finished tapa are called ngatu

Note the italicized words are Tongan

Ta"pa (?), n.

A kind of cloth prepared by the Polynesians from the inner bark of the paper mulberry; -- sometimes called also kapa.


© Webster 1913.

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