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!

American Samoan U'a Patch & New Workshop Dates

26th March 2020

Reggie in the plantation

Reggie Meredith, our wonderful tapa maker and practitioner in American Samoa, sent us this photo of her weeding and maintaining her u'a (paper mulberry) patch a couple of weeks ago. Hearty and resilient, she says that she hopes that our global community can reflect these traits of the u'a so that we can get through the COVID-19 pandemic together. These very u'a are what she and Uilisone have spent much time preparing and nuturing in order to use in our Barkcloth Basics museum workshops and public events.

While we are still in the process of trying to reorganise the workshops, we are hoping that they may be able to go ahead at the end of August 2020, but only if it is safe to do so. We will keep updating everyone as time goes on and thank you for the interest and enthusiasm that has been shown in participating in them!


Barkcloth Basics - Workshop Postponement Announcement

12th March 2020

Sadly, the upcoming Barkcloth Basics: Interpreting and Understanding Pacific Barkcloth workshops have been postponed due to concern over the spread of COVID-19.

The virus’ fast-paced development around the world has led to strict travel restrictions being put in place, and this includes a restriction and quarantine put in place by the government of our American Samoan barkcloth practitioners. We feel that the workshop should not take place without Reggie Meredith and Uilisone Fitiao’s cultural knowledge and expertise being shared with participants – especially as they are joint facilitators of the programme – so we have had to make the careful and much considered decision to move the workshops to later in the year.

As soon as we have more information about new dates, we will share it. We’ve received a lot of interest in the workshops and we look forward to rescheduling them and having Reggie and Uilisone join us in the UK in the near future.

Barkcloth Basics: Interpreting and Understanding Pacific Barkcloth

13th January 2020


Venues & Dates:          Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, Friday 3 April 2020

Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, Wednesday 8 April 2020

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, Tuesday 14 April 2020

The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton, Friday 17 April 2020

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Friday 24 April 2020


Time:                             10h00 – 16h30


Places available:            10 per venue


The University of Glasgow’s AHRC-funded research project Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place has received further funding to maximise impact and engagement and is delighted to announce an exciting 1-day workshop, to be held at 5 regional host venues, in April 2020.

Led by the host venue, the project team and Reggie Meredith and Uilisone Fitiao, barkcloth makers and scholars from American Samoa, the workshop is aimed at non-specialist curators and museum staff from local and regional museums and historic houses. Participants will explore through talks, demonstrations and practical sessions:

  • Barkcloth significance, us and history
  • Barkcloth materials, manufacture and decoration
  • Barkcloth storage and conservation
  • Understanding and working with your own barkcloth collections

Each host venue’s barkcloth collection will act as a valuable study resource during discussions, while examples of modern raw plant materials, tools and barkcloth will be available for participants to interact and engage with. Participants are expected to bring images and provenance information of their museum’s barkcloth pieces for analysis and discussion. Resources will be provided to help in the further interpretation and understanding of barkcloth, allowing museums to make it more accessible and host innovative, interactive and informative opportunities for their own visitors.

A public 1-day event follows each museum staff workshop; for more information, please see the website of each regional host. All participants are welcome to attend the public events.

Each 1-day workshop includes catering for all participants. Travel/accommodation funding will be taken under consideration if requested. This will be decided upon the discretion of the workshop organisers. Booking is essential; select venues may have the capacity to host more than 10 places.

To apply for a place,* please fill in the application form and send to arts-admin-barkcloth@glasgow.ac.uk by 17.00 on Monday 9 March 2020.


*If applying to attend a workshop in a region other than your own, please explain why on the form. First priority will be given to participants located within each region.