The rarer of the two main classes of Tongan ngatu (barkcloth). Ngatu ‘uli is ‘black’ Tongan cloth, made and worn exclusively by chiefly people in Tongan history, and used for a range of purposes at the funerals of high chiefs. The fabric is rubbed with patterns in light brown koka on its one or two under-layers in the same manner as ngatu tāhina, but then its upper layer is heavily glazed a deep, glossy black with koka into which copious quantities of Candlenut soot have been mixed. A range of named sub-types of ngatu ‘uli exist, largely based on their dominant motif: Those not dealt with separately here, but which are well-known and may be identified from the literature, include Amoamokofe, Aotapu, Manulua (the vane swastika), Potu‘uamanuka, Sisi, Tatautuisipi, Tokelau Feletoa, Ve‘etuli and ‘Alolua, among others. All of these motifs also occur on ngatu tāhina, and Veys (2017) has noted that the classification of some fabrics as ngatu ‘uli or ngatu tāhina may have been contextual and subjective; that said, it often seems that a single motif tends to have a dominant role in the realization of ngatu ‘uli, while ngatu tāhina appear to mix a range of different kupesi.
- Veys, F.W. (2017). Unwrapping Tongan barkcloth: encounters, creativity and female agency. London, New York: Bloomsbury
- Churchward, C. M. (1959). Tongan dictionary (Tongan-English and English-Tongan). Tonga: Government Printing Press
Entry created on 28 August 2020