Tapa: Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place

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Making O'a (brown dye) in American Samoa

29th April 2020

Reggie making brown dye

 Last week would have marked our final set of the Barkcloth Basics: Interpreting and Understanding Pacific Barkcloth workshops. While we are sad that we could not share these workshops with you, we are still hoping to hold them later in the year with Reggie Meredith and Uilisone Fitiao, as well as the exciting public events that were going to take place at each museum venue.

As you will have seen in our previous post, Reggie and Uilisone remain hard at work in American Samoa teaching (fun fact: Reggie holds an MFA and teaches at colleges/universities and Uilisone is a certified tatau artist) and creating artistic works. In the above images, Reggie shows us the process in which o'a (brown dye) is made for tapa decoration.

First, bark is scraped from the O'a tree (Bishofia javanica) - different plants can be used to provide this colour, but Reggie says that siapo (Samoan tapa) makers think that the o'a produces the the best colour - then the scrapings are wet slightly and wrung out inside of a cloth until a liquid is produced. Next, the liquid dye is transferred into glass bottles. It is important to leave the lids of the bottles slightly open for a few days after the dye is transferred in because it allows the natural gases of the liquid to escape. After this, the dye is ready to use! Reggie does mention, though, that it is good pratice to only make as much dye as can be used in a short period of time, because if left stored unattended for too long the dye will thicken and coagulate.

Make sure to check out our Twitter and Instagram (Pacific Tapa UoG, @pacifictapa) pages to see a video of Reggie scraping bark from the O'a tree to make dye!


Other recent news items:

American Samoan U'a Patch & New Workshop Dates
26th March 2020
Reggie & Uilisone's u'a (paper mulberry) patch needs to be regularly maintained and cared for  More >

Barkcloth Basics - Workshop Postponement Announcement
12th March 2020
Barkcloth Basics: Interpreting and Understanding Pacific Barkcloth has been postponed due to concern over the spread of COVID-19  More >

Barkcloth Basics: Interpreting and Understanding Pacific Barkcloth
13th January 2020
An exciting, upcoming workshop which aims to raise the awareness, skills and understanding of Pacific barkcloth for museum staff  More >

Registration open for the Recent Advances in Barkcloth Conservation Symposium
16th October 2018
Presenting diverse approaches to understanding the making, conservation and display of barkcloth in several tropical regions  More >

Call for Papers: Conservation of Barkcloth Material
10th July 2018
Invitation for submissions for a one day symposium on the conservation of barkcloth from any part of the world  More >

Student Blog: Volunteering for the Barkcloth Workshop
19th June 2018
Four students describe their experiences participating in the three day event  More >

Research Studentship Working on the Barkcloth Project
12th June 2018
Experience from Jennifer Brunton who embarked on a recent research studentship  More >

Barkcloth workshops and visiting practitioners from American Samoa
18th April 2018
There have been exciting developments for the barkcloth project team recently – at the end of March we hosted a visit from two bar  More >

Tapa symposium at Auckland War Memorial Museum
8th January 2018
Andy Mills and Frances Lennard spent two weeks in New Zealand in October  More >