Tapa is an unweave textile that we can find everywhere in Polynesia, in some Melanesian Island and in New Caledonia. Its production is almost always done by women. Tapa’s production is not mainstream anymore but some recent initiatives like the Tapa’s Festival in Tahiti give a new lease of life to the extraordianry textile.
It’s made from internal bark, mostly the Broussonetia Papyrifera. The bark macerated in water in order to get a fiber dissociation.
Then, the internal phloem is beaten with a beetle, on an anvil made with wood. The beaten phloem became thin and tight so it can be stick to other pieces in order to get gigantic pieces. Some pieces can reach more than 10 meters.

© HS Projets

Tapa are not necessarily decorated, some of them can be let at natural state, in full white, without being dye. The techniques used to embellish the tapa can change according to the islands :

  • matrix
  • stencils made from banana tree’s leafs or pandanus’ leafs which allowed to draw tapa in series (particular to Fidji)
  • Freehand drawing
  • Carved Bamboo stamping

Colors used to dye or make motive are obtain from naturals pigments or imported pigments.

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Le tapa recouvre différentes fonctions dans la vie quotidienne. Il peut être vêtement, tenture, couche pour enfants ou encore matière servant au calfeutrage des bateaux. Il est présent et utilisé à toutes les étapes de la vie. « Il sert aux sages-femmes pour accueillir les nouveau-nés et aussi de linceul pour enterrer les décédés et permet de passer du monde des vivants à celui des morts ». « Il fonctionne aussi comme valeur d’échange entre les hommes, les villages, les îles, les sociétés et constitue en quelque sorte la richesse des femmes que celles-ci mettent à la disposition de leur propre communauté pour sa reproduction » .
( Ext. Marie-Claire Bataille-Benguigui, Etude de la collection de tissus d’écorce battue du Musée d’Histoire Naturelle de Lyon, Paris 2004)

The tapa has different functions in daily life. It can be an item of clothing, a hanging, a diapper for babies or it can serve to draughtproof boats. The tapa is  use during all the steps of life. “It is used by nurses to welcome the newborn babies and also as a shroud to bury the dead persons and so it allows people to pass from the living world to the death world”. ” It works as an exchange good between humans, villages, islands,  societies and it embodies women’s wealth which are provisioned to their own community for their reproduction”.

(Ext. Marie-Claire Bataille-Benguigui, Etude de la collection de tissus d’écorce battue du Musée d’Histoire Naturelle de Lyon, Paris 2004)

© HS Projets

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