A TSONGA TAPA 'TREE BARK' CLOTH

 

Tsonga tribe, South Africa, before 1970

The cloth, made from the fig tree (Ficus natalensis), decorated with geometric motifs in a chequered pattern. 

L. 143 x H. 184 cm

Provenance:
Collection Hans van Drumpt (1939-2015), painter and collector of African and Indonesian art, living in Maastricht, who visited South-Africa often in the 1980s, to particularly collect Ndebele beadwork (see Uit Verre Streken, November 2015, no. 14)

Note:
Tapa supposedly is the oldest way of making cloth but due to its nature, fragments of tapa earlier than the (end) of the 19th century have hardly survived. Tapa’s were made in well-wooded areas in Africa, South East Asia, Japan and America, of the bark of trees, soaked in water to soften it and then beaten against a flattened log with a hardwood beater. This process felts the bark, giving it strength and flexibility, and more than doubles its width. The strips were then pasted together with arrowroot to form a large cloth and painted with the sap of certain trees, which stain them black or brown. Under the influence of sunlight, the bark of the African fig tree turns into a rich reddish brown. 

More information:
 

  • Pule, J and Thomas, N "Hiapo", past and present in Niuean Barkcloth" Dunedin, University of Otago Press, 2005.

  • Arkinstall, Patricia Lorraine, “A study of bark cloth from Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, An exploration of the regional development of distinctive styles of bark cloth and its relationship to other cultural factors”, Ithaca, N.Y., 1966.

  • Brigham, William Tufts, “Ka hana kapa, making of bark-cloth in Hawaii”, Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1911.

  • ʻI.F. Helu; Critical essays: Cultural perspectives from the Southseas; 1999

  • Kaeppler, Adrienne Lois, “The fabrics of Hawaii (bark cloth)”, Leigh-on-Sea, F. Lewis, 1975.

  • Leonard, Anne, and Terrell, John, "Patterns of Paradise: The styles and significance of bark cloth around the world", Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago USA, 1980.

  • Neich, Roger and Pendergrast, Mick, "Pacific Tapa", University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1997.

  • Winter, Joan G., "Talking Tapa: Pasifika Bark Cloth in Queensland", Keeaira Press, Southport QLD, 2009.

  • Aldridge, Richard and Hamson, Michael, "Art of the Massim & Collingwood Bay", Michael Hamson, Palos Verdes, CA, 2009.

  • Meyer, Anthony J. P., "Les Tapa funéraires des Nakanai de Nouvelle-Bretagne (The funerary tapa-cloths of the Nakanai from New Britain)", Series: Océanie-Oceania No. 11.", Galerie Meyer, Paris 1992

  • Kooijman, Simon, "Ornamented bark-cloth in Indonesia", Series: Mededelingen van het Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden, No. 16. Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1963.

  • Meurant, Georges, and Thompson, Robert Farris, "Mbuti Design: Paintings by Pygmy Women of the Ituri Forest", Thames & Hudson, 1996.

  • Wright, Margot, "Barkcloth: Aspects of Preparation, Use, Deterioration, Conservation and Display (Conservators of Ethnographic Artefacts)", Archetype Books, 2001.

  • Richards, Rhys, "Not Quite Extinct: Melanesian Barkcloth ('Tapa') from Western Solomon Islands", Paremata Press, 2005.

  • Goldman, Irving, "The Cubeo: Indians of the Northwest Amazon", University of Illinois Press, 1979.

  • Arbeit, Wendy, "Tapa in Tonga", University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1995.

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