Tapa is a bark cloth made in many of the Pacific Islands. 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.

You will need:

•  Black Permanent Marker

•  60gsm Kraft Paper

•  Brown liquid dye

•  Yellow Ochre liquid dye

•  Small brush

Specific Learning Objectives

Students will:

•  Explore and learn about the traditional art form of tapa

•  Be able to recognise how art can can serve a function in the everyday life of a culture

•  Create their own unique pattern designs using geometric shapes and patterns

• Present their works in a collaborative presentation (optional)

Let's Get Started!

Sketch several ideas for a tapa design. Choose one to use to create your tapa. Fold a square piece of Kraft Paper in half, then in half again. Open up the paper and you will have four squares in which to create your design. Draw your design in pencil then outline with Black Permanent Marker.

Add dye to your design, leave some of the paper without dye as this will provide more contrast and the overall design will stand out better.

When the dye is dry scrunch up the paper, repeating this until the paper becomes soft and feels like real tapa cloth.

Individual designs can be displayed together with the rest of the class to resemble a traditional tapa cloth.

Further cultural information on tapa

In Tonga, tapa is known as ngatu, it is of great social importance to the islanders, often being given as gifts and is a must for all celebrations of life. In Samoa, the same cloth is called siapo, and in Niue it is hiapo. It is also known as tapia.

Nowadays tapa is often worn on formal occasions such as weddings. Other uses also include blankets and room dividers. It is highly prized for its decorative value and is often found hung on the walls as decoration.

The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometrical patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants eg. four stylised leaves forming a diagonal cross.

Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown.

When some islanders emigrated to NZ traditional materials were hard to come by, new materials were found to create decorative wall pieces and mats.  

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