tapa02
Tapa Cloth Apia, Island of Upola American Samoa
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tapa02a
Tapa Cloth Apia Detail, Island of Upola American Samoa
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tapa03
Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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tapa03a
Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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tapa04
Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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tapa05
Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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tapa09
Tapa Cloth, American Samoa
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Tapa Cloth Detail, American Samoa
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tapa10
Tapa Cloth, Tonga
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Tapa Cloth Detail, Tonga
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tapa11
Tapa Cloth, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth Detail, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth Detail, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth Detail, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth, Fiji
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Tapa Cloth Detail, Fiji
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Bark cloth, or tapa, is not a woven material, but made from bark that has been softened through a process of soaking and beating. The inner bark is taken from several types of trees or shrubs, often mulberry and fig, and designs are applied with paints and vegetable dyes of light brown, red, and black. Bark cloth is manufactured for everyday needs such as room dividers, clothing, and floor mats, as well as ceremonial uses in weddings and funerals.

Though there are a variety of local names, the word tapa, originally from Tahiti, is commonly used to refer to bark cloth made all over the world. The MNCH tapa cloth collection includes about 40 tapas primarily from Polynesia, including the islands of Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, and Tahiti. While tapa cloth is most often recognized as a Polynesian craft, it has also been made in South America, Indonesia, New Guinea, Melanesia, and parts of Africa; the Museum’s collection includes tapas from Congo and Mozambique. The examples shown here reflect the varied designs and colors represented in the MNCH's holdings, from bold geometric patterns to detailed, stylized floral motifs. Photography and text by Elizabeth Kallenbach and web development by Robert Voelker-Morris and Keith Hamm. Images © UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Production of this gallery was generously supported by The Ford Family Foundation.