What is tapa cloth?

Bark Cloth

Tapa cloth is an unwoven kind of bark cloth made by soaking and pounding the soft inner bark of the paper mulberry and certain other trees.  It is the traditional fabric of Polynesia.  Tapa cloth was once widely used for clothing and mats on the islands of the South Pacific.

While modern woven cloth has replaced the traditional native tapa cloth, it is still manufactured on such islands as Tonga and Fiji for special ceremonial occasions.

To make tapa cloth, the tapa maker carefully peels off the white inner layer of mulberry bark and soaks it in water.  The water-soaked bark is then pounded on a log with a wooden club until the narrow strips widen into the proper width and thickness.  By pasting overlapping edges with glue made from plant roots, the tapa maker fashions sheets of larger sizes.  The tapa cloth is then decorated with dyes made from plant juice. – Dick Rogers



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