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Entry Hall
July 1, 2011

Tapa Cloth
Ca. 1970s
Mulberry bark and pigment
Vanuatu Islands, South Pacific
Collected in Society Islands in 1974, Gift of John Barkham


This large tapa cloth was made from mulberry bark which was pounded to create a cloth-like substance.

Cloths like this one are often made as wedding gifts or for other ceremonial occasions by groups of women who sit together and pound the cloth using grooved mallets. It takes up to one month to prepare a cloth like this. The designs on the cloth are applied in a grid pattern using stencils and dyes made from a variety of local plants and clay.

Tapa cloth is used today as floor mats, room dividers, wall decorations or bed coverings. Its former use as clothing has been replaced by cotton fabric. It is found throughout the South Pacific.

This example has several pictorial designs, depicting birds, trees and
animals unlike other styles which are largely geometric in design.

Pictured: detail from 13' x 8' tapa cloth. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong.