Barkcloth in Marquesas Islands
Art Historical Description
Historical evidence suggests that paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) was never abundantly available on the steep, thin-soiled high islands of the Marquesas, although it was just as highly valued as everywhere else in Polynesia. While small stands of paper mulberry were therefore grown around the house to supply loincloths for the important ceremonial occasions in a man’s life, the vast majority of everyday Marquesan tapa cloth was made entirely from breadfruit bast (Artocarpus altilis). One of the other distinctive features of Marquesan tapa production was the use of a stone anvil and round-section beaters for a distinct phase of initial beating – something which was clearly practiced there before 300 AD, as it was a production technique carried with the first settlers of Hawai‘i from the northern Marquesas during the 4th century, and to Rapa Nui during the 5th century. In other respects, however, the production methods of Marquesan tapa were similar to those practiced in the Society, Cook and Austral Islands: Bast was given a lengthy retting soak before beating, and fabrics were fused together into a single unified sheet.
- Kjellgren, E. and Ivory, C. (2005). Adorning the world: art of the Marquesas Islands. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art
river-board cortex stripping; long retting bast soak; fermentation; initial beating – stone anvil and round beater; fusing composition; linear beater marking; immersion dyeing; hand painting
Characteristic Fabric Types
Entry created on 28 August 2020