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Tales from the cloth

A tapa cloth workshop held last week underlined the connection between taonga Maori and taonga o Te Moana a Kiwa (Pacific Ocean).

“We believe there are connections between taonga Maori and taonga o Te Moana a Kiwa,” Tautua Village director Malia Patea-Taylor said.

“That story connects us. A lot of young people don’t know some of those stories, or haven’t touched or held taonga puoro, or haven’t seen or know about tapa. We heard today from some of the young people that by just looking at the tapa — a bit like their time with the taonga puoro — they felt really connected.”

Tales from the cloth are around honouring and remembering tapa experts, mostly women, and the stories they shared with one another while creating tapa, Patea-Taylor said.

“It’s about honouring and valuing the time that goes into these pieces and respecting the fact it’s not a practice we see all the time here in Tairawhiti.”

Tapa is made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree. In Tonga there are 50-200 foot long tapa, she said.

Mulberry trees don’t grow here so people at the workshop used calico, and instead of traditional pigments, participants used black, brown and red paint.

“It is to give our people the experience of making their own stencil out of clay and they can take that away with them. We’re not in the islands but we need to know about this indigenous currency and what it means to us.”

MULBERRY: Tautua Village director and tutor Malia Patea-Taylor demonstrates to Karam Kaur the art of preparing the inner bark of the mulberry tree to create tapa cloth. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell
TAPA STORY: Ihipera Mahuika paints a design in a Tautua Village tapa-making workshop. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell