You are all familiar with ‘show and tell’ day, from kindergarten, I feel sure. At my former school, this meant to bring something to show and then tell something about it. But, here…the lesson comes first…then the picture.
When I first went to Hawaii, I think I was 15, I bought a big piece of ‘tapa cloth’. And it hung on my wall both at home and at college. But, somewhere between getting married and moving and moving and moving and moving…it got lost. Or someone threw it away…not knowing how special it was. I have always searched for more each time I have been back, but all I could ever find was in galleries and it cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, or it was made into some silly trinket instead of just the plain cloth. But, when I went last year, I ran across some small pieces that were more reasonably priced and snapped up 3 pieces as quick as I could. I kept those pieces rolled up in tissue paper while we travelled and I made it home with out any creases in them. I then stretched then on canvas. And, they are now very prized possessions.
The Lesson: Tapa cloth (or simply tapa) is a bark cloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji. It is made from the inner bark of paper mulberry trees or breadfruit trees, and can also be called kapa. It was once of great importance to the islanders, being used for clothing,rugs, blankets, etc. It was even traded with other islands, or given as gifts. It is produced by strip long area of bark, then boiling and separating the fibers.
Then the softened fibers were pounded to make one large piece of cloth.
Several layers of these fibers would be glued together, then allowed to dry. Traditional dyes of black and a rust-brown were used to decorate the cloth…primarily by use of stamps or stencils…with geometrical patterns of the native culture. Each island group had its own special symbols. These are still used today on decorative items, and often are the ‘tribal markings’ you see tattoed around the bicep or calf muscle of brave islanders!
Though strong when dry, tapa cloth would lose its strength when wet and fall apart. Nowadays tapa is still often worn on formal occasions such as weddings and funerals. Another use is as blanket at night, or for room dividers. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often found used to hang on the walls as a decoration. It is still used in ceremonial masks, and to wrap sacred objects.
Here are the small pieces that I bought…stretched and hung on the wall leading into our library.
The areas around the birds are actually a little lighter than the rest of the picture. I am so happy with these pictures, they truly add to the beauty of the home. (I hope that doesn’t sound boastful. I don’t mean it to be, I just love it here so much.) I am so, so proud of the artistic eye that Adam has, and his ability to put the things he ‘sees in his mind’ onto actual paper. This grouping delights me every time I pass it! Thanks, Adam!
My husband told me one time that he didn’t think I’d ever rest easy until I had knocked holes in all the walls in our house and hung pictures in every blank space available. Well, of course I won’t. What are walls for, after all?