Tapa: barkcloth art in the Pacific

For centuries, people across the Pacific have created beautiful and functional tapa cloth from the inner bark of a range of tropical trees. It’s known by many names across the Pacific – aute in Aotearoa, siapo in Sāmoa, ngatu in Tonga, masi in Fiji, hiapo in Niue, ‘ahu in Tahiti, and kapa in Hawaii. It’s used for mats, clothing, hats, paintings, story holders, and for Pacific peoples living in Aotearoa, observing the customs of their home islands keeps them connected to family, culture, and land. 

Here, you can find out about how tapa has been used, read about wānanga with contemporary makers, and see the tools used to make tapa and the beautiful taonga in our collection.