Pasifika – Tapa cloth from the Pacific
The Talking Tapa workshop on Bark cloth from the Pacific was fantastic. Held at the Manning Art Gallery, this free demonstration and hands on workshop allowed us to explore a little known art and textile technique in Australia.
The inner bark from a type of mulberry tree is beaten, sometimes for long periods, producing a finer and finer cloth. You can see the tutor Jiowanna Dau Miles with a beater specifically designed by the wood craftsmen in Fiji.
The stencilled decorative elements on the cloth were cut with xray film and were ‘mix and match’ design styles which could be build in different ways to create quite complex looking patterns.
The stenciling was so engaging as we used our fingers without gloves, and it washed out immediately. The carrier liquid for the dyes was made from mangrove root. We firstly dipped the sponge into this then into an ochre powder or one from the soot of the burnt candle nut (agathis vitensis) to paint on the stencil.