*The store has not been updated recently. You may want to contact the merchant to confirm the availability of the product.
Vintage Fiji Masi Tapa Barkcloth22 Inch in long x 19 InchGreat for home wall decorationThe 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 wordtapais fromTahitiand theCook Islands, whereCaptain Cookwas the first European to collect it and introduce it to the rest of the world.In Tonga, tapa is known asngatu, and here it is of great social importance to the islanders, often being given as gifts. In Samoa, the same cloth is calledsiapo, and in Niue it ishiapo. In Hawaiʻi, it is known askapa. InRotuma, a Polynesian island in the Fiji group, it is called‘uhaand in otherFijiislands it is calledmasi. In the Pitcairn islands it was calledahu. It is also known as tapia.All these words give some clue to the origin.Masicould 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 thehiapoorsiapowas introduced from SoutheastAsia, thepaper mulberrytree (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.Tapafinally 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. The major problem with tapa clothing is that the tissue loses its strength when wet and falls apart. (Still it was better than grass-skirts, which usually are either heavier and harder or easily blown apart, but on the low coralatollswhere the mulberry does not grow, people had no choice.) It is also labour-intensive to manufacture. Tapa cloth was made by both the men and women in ancient times. An example is the Hawaiian men, who also made their own weapons.Nowadays tapa is often worn on formal occasions such as weddings. Another use is as a blanket at night or for room dividers. It is highly prized for its decorative value and is often found hung on the walls as decoration. In Tonga a family is considered poor, no matter how much money they have, if they do not have any tapa in stock at home to donate at life events like marriages, funerals and so forth. If the tapa was donated to them by a chief or even the royal family, it is more valuable. It has been used in ceremonial masks in Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands (Mangian masks). It was used to wrap sacred objects, e.g., "God staffs" in the Cook Islands.