Technique 7

short bast soak


Traditional Polynesian bast-soaking practices seem to have broadly fallen into two basic categories: A short soak of the stripped bast in Western Polynesia and a long soak in Eastern Polynesia. This is fundamental to understanding why cloths produced in Western Polynesia with a short soak retain the fibrous texture and appearance of unbeaten bast – the visible ‘fibres’ actually being bundles of numerous microscopic bast fibres glued together with pectin. Most cloths produced in Eastern Polynesia and Hawai‘i using a long soaking method, however, have a uniform paper-like texture. In Tonga, Fiji, ‘Uvea, Futuna and Rotuma, the scraped bast was traditionally left to macerate in fresh water for 24 hours before beating – a stage which seems to be absent from the manufacture of siapo in Samoa.


  • Beaglehole, J.C. (1969, III:905). The journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery. 5 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Buck, P.H. (Hiroa, T.R.) (1930: 285). Samoan material culture. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press
  • Kooijman, S. (1972: 346-7). Tapa in Polynesia. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 234. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.



Entry created on 28 August 2020