Technique 1

bark removal


The method of removing usable bark from the sapling trunk, tree branch or aerial root varied very little across Polynesia. The harvester puts a circumferential cut around a sapling just above ground level with a clamshell, snaps the slender stick off at this point, slits the trunk once throughout its length, and pulls the bark off in a single sheet. The only minor technical variations seem to focus on whether the teeth or a shell is used to begin the separation of the bark from the wood, and whether a shell or the thumb is used as a bodkin to continue the work. While this first technical stage of manufacture may seem entirely mechanical, Captain Wilson of the missionary ship Duff recorded that Tahitian women could manipulate the aesthetic qualities of the finished cloth even at this stage: “if they wish it to be clouded, they break the outer bark with a stone, and wrap the sticks in leaves for three or four days before they bark them”.


  • Beaglehole, J.C. (1969, III:905-6). The journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery. 5 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Wilson, J. (1799: 37) A missionary voyage to the Southern Pacific Ocean: performed in the years 1796, 1797, 1798, in the ship Duff, commanded by Captain James Wilson. London: T. Chapman



Entry created on 28 August 2020