Tapa Cloth

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by CBri, Jul 30, 2016.

  1. CBri

    CBri Member

    I have several pieces of Tapa cloth I have had for years, probably 25 years. It was pretty old when I got it. I have thought about putting it under glass on a round table top (I think these are like 36" or 38" across) or perhaps framing the large rectangular piece. I see prices all over the place but I am assuming the larger more detailed pieces are worth more. Anybody have any experience with it? Should I drag it out of the box and display it? Should I sell or let it dwell?

    CBri image.jpeg
    yourturntoloveit likes this.
  2. GaleriaGila

    GaleriaGila Hola, y'all!

    I don't know anything about Taps, so I'll leave that for the textile brainiacs here.
    I will say, though, that I think they're very pretty... if you do, too, definitely haul 'em out and enjoy!
  3. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    When it comes to tapa cloth, the main problems seem to be that there are a limited number of collectors, decorative use is generally thought to be limited to Island or Tiki-style, and the general public is not even aware of what it is or where it comes from.

    Most of the more recent pieces on the market are either inexpensive souvenir placemats from Fiji, or huge Tongan pieces that have limited display possibilities.

    Value has less to do with size, than with where it was made (Samoan generally gets higher prices than Tongan, and Tongan higher than Fiji), the quality of the craftsmanship, and the graphic appeal of the design.

    Your two pieces are from Samoan, and are siapo mamanu, meaning the tapa (siapo in Samoa) design was painted freehand, rather than first having been printed by rubbing over a carved wood pattern. That method lends itself more to the round shape, which was developed primarily for the tourist and collector market, as opposed to the larger rectangular pieces used traditionally in Samoan homes for wall covering, bedding, clothing, and ceremonial gifts.

    I've found the round ones more difficult to sell, maybe because people have a hard time thinking of a way to display them, but I think the idea of using a round one under glass as a table top is a great solution.

    Could you post photos of some of the others you have, as well? If you have any by Mary Pritchard, that would be very desirable to collectors.
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  4. GaleriaGila

    GaleriaGila Hola, y'all!

    I KNEW Taupou would KNOW.
  5. CBri

    CBri Member

    TAPA 1.png TAPA 2.png TAPA 2.png TAPA 3.jpeg TAPA 5.jpeg TAPA 6.jpeg TAPA 6.jpeg TAPA 4.jpeg

    Don't know why I have the repeats in there. I tried to delete them once then sort of gave up. The one cloth measures 51" X 74" and the other measures roughly 57" X 76". A couple of small holes in each which I understand can be repaired fairly easily if someone knows what they are doing. As I said they are old since they were said to be antique when I got them around 25 years ago. These I just don't know how I could display them without putting them under glass or plexiglass in a frame. I am curious to know where they are from exactly since I know tapa cloth can come from several different places. If the first two are Samoan then likely these are too.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
  6. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    Forgot to mention that in framing, or on a table top, the glass shouldn't come in contact with the siapo itself. There should be spacers to avoid the buildup of condensation, which could damage the piece. And if storing them, they really should not be folded. Larger ones should be stored rolled. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu has described some of the best display, as well as storage and conservation techniques, described on this web site:


    The two you show in Post #5 are Samoan, and very nice examples of the type collectors want...showing careful craftmanship, graphic designs, and in a size that can be displayed well in a home. The Bishop Museum article describes how to display tapa by simply hanging it over a padded wooden pole, the method I prefer, since it is easy, and allows one to change the ones on display from time to time.
    Figtree3 and gregsglass like this.
  7. CBri

    CBri Member


    Thanks so much. I probably need to part with one or both of the larger pieces as I have almost no place to put them and most of my collecting steers in a different cultural direction. I am certain someone else could do them justice. The smaller pieces are more manageable and take up less space on walls or a flat surface (yeah I have a little too much stuff to display which is not an uncommon dilemma on here I think the old walls are pretty full around here). But it has taken me this long to even consider parting with them so as you might guess I am a bit attached to them. We'll see if they are still around here when the grand kids go through my stuff some day. :) But still it's a start. I owe you one!

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