Week 18: Tapa Pounder
What kind of hammer is this? Where is it from?

How is tapa cloth made?

Who makes tapa cloth? What is it used for?

Tapa Pounder

(click here for larger image)

Answers:

What kind of hammer is this? Where is it from?
This is a tapa pounder from Tonga, which is used to make cloth from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree (click here for an example of tapa cloth). The method used to make it is known by many different names across the Pacific islands, including tapa in Tahiti, ngatu in Tonga, siapo in Samoa, and kapa in Hawaii.


How is tapa cloth made?
First the bark is stripped from the paper mulberry tree, then the outer bark is scraped off of the inner bark. Then the inner bark is softened by soaking it in water, at least overnight. The bark is beaten until it is paper-thin, and then overlapped with other strips and pounded until they form one large sheet. The sheet is then laid in the sun to dry, at which point decoration with dye can begin. Tapa is made in many of the Pacific Islands, and each has its own set of techniques and variations for decoration.


Who makes tapa cloth? What is it used for?
Traditionally it was made by both men and women all over the Pacific islands. It was used to make clothing before cotton was readily available. In more recent times it is mostly used for formal occasions such as weddings or funerals, and has a prized place as a traditional art.