Very nice and really interesting Tapa Mat from The Kingdom of Tonga depicting historical events. In great condition measuring 34" x 26"....dates to around 1970....... these mats make wonderful Wall Hangings.
Tapa cloth (or simply tapa) is a barkcloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, but as far afield as Niue, Cook Islands, Futuna, Solomon Islands, Java, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea (particularly in Oro Province around Tufi) and Hawaii (where it is called kapa). In French Polynesia it has nearly disappeared, except for some villages in the Marquesas.The cloth is known by a number of local names although the term tapa is international and understood throughout the islands that use the cloth. The word tapa is from Tahiti and the Cook Islands, where Captain Cook was the first European to collect it and introduce it to the rest of the world. In Tonga, tapa is 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, and in Niue it is hiapo. In Hawaiʻi, it is known as kapa. In Rotuma, a Polynesian island in the Fiji group, it is called ‘uha and in other Fiji islands it is called masi. In the Pitcairn islands it was called ahu. It is also known as tapia.
All these words give some clue to the origin. Masi could mean the (bark of the) dye-fig (Ficus tinctoria), endemic to Oceania, and probably the one originally used to make tapa. Somewhere in history, during the voyages of migration the hiapo or siapo was introduced from Southeast Asia, the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera). The bark of this tree is much better to use, and put the use of the dye-fig into oblivion. Only its name remained in Fiji. Tapa finally has the meaning of border or strip. It seems likely that before the glueing process became common to make large sheets (see below) only narrow strips were produced.
Tapa can be decorated by rubbing, stamping, stencilling, smoking (Fiji: "masi Kuvui") or dyeing. The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometric 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 known.
In former times the cloth was primarily used for clothing, but now cotton and other textiles have replaced it.
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