Tapa, a general term used to describe Polynesian bark cloth, is made from the inner bark of the Broussonetia tree that has been hand beaten, scraped, pressed, and patterned to create printed cloth. In Samoa, two methods are used to produce large pieces of printed bark cloth. One method consists of pasting smaller strips of bark cloth together while simultaneously applying colored designs by rubbing the material on design tablets (upeti) loaded with natural pigments. The second method consists of piecing and adhering bark cloth strips to create a larger textile prior to patterning and dyeing. Many of the designs used in Samoan siapo (completed bark cloth) are geometric and linear. This siapo is patterned with the basic hallmarks of Samoan bark cloth design: rectangles with filled diagonals interspersed and decorated with bands of diamond patterning. The repetitive use of these shapes transforms the cloth into a rich and rhythmic textile with dynamic visual interest.
- Bark cloth, Samoa, 19th or early 20th century, beaten and rubbed Broussonetia bark, hand-painted, Gift of Mrs. Henry J. Bernheim