StoriesMagicMourningReflections of GloryHorses and DragonsAnimal AdornmentWeddingKids' CreativitySacred DancersWoven AirThe Mythical MonkeyCloth of WarThe Tanabata Bridge of WingsPrayers to the Sea GoddessSnake TwistTapa Map

Bark cloth (tapa)

Women in Tonga begin making bark cloth (tapa) by stripping bark from the paper mulberry tree using knives and their teeth. They beat the soft inner layer with a mallet until it is wide and firm. This map is made from one piece of bark, while larger designs are made by joining pieces. The images are drawn with brown pigment made from the bark of the koka tree.

Where was this textile created?

World map preview image

Tapa Map

Bark cloth (tapa)
Oceania: Pacific Islands, Polynesia, Tonga
c. 1968
Paper mulberry tree bark, pounded and painted
91 cm x 96 cm
Gift of Beatrice Tremaine
T91.0277 Textile Museum of Canada

Tonga may be the only culture in the Pacific where textiles are used to record historical events. The central image of this picture is the Tonga coat of arms. The illustrations around it allude to the visits of Captain Cook and Captain Bligh, and also include volcanoes and an island map.

The tree growing up from the coat of arms is labelled Cook’s tree. This is the Banyan tree Captain Cook sat under in 1777, while watching the Ceremony of the First Fruits as the guest of Pau, the King of Tonga.

Do an Activity!
Test your knowledge of textiles and discover something new. You have four adventures to choose from.

Make a Mola Paint by Plant Magic Carpet Animal Know How