The ancient craft of creating bark cloth is shared by numerous cultures around the world. In Samoa, this textile tradition has been passed down for generations and is an integral component of gift exchange. The textile we see here is a prime example of a siapo tasina, a type of bark cloth (siapo) that has been decorated in two stages. The cloth is initially rubbed on a design template (upeti) to achieve the background pattern that spans the whole surface of the cloth. Key areas of this printed design are then emphasized and further ornamented with freehand overpainting. This overpainting is created using ‘o’a sap, a natural brown-black resinous substance that is mixed with pigments derived from lama nut kernels. In this siapo tasina, we see a typical overpainted motif of dark-brown circles applied intermittently throughout the textile along with other geometric shapes. When dried, these overpainted motifs have a shiny finish that adds interest to the overall rhythmic surface design.
- Tapa Cloth, Samoa, 20th century, printed and painted beaten bark cloth (tapa), Museum purchase from Friends of Textiles Fund, 1976-33-3