Tapa: Barkcloth paintings from the Pacific
Catalogue of the Exhibition 'Tapa: Barkcloth paintings from the Pacific' held at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham (1 May 2013 - 14/07/2013) and at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (25 March 2014 - 19 April 2014).
The catalogue of this exhibition draws upon the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s world-class collection of barkcloth, dating from the eighteenth century to the present day. The exhibition took place at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham (1 May 2013 - 14/07/2013) and at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (25 March 2014 - 19 April 2014).
Exceptional barkcloths, rarely displayed, will be featured including two works by women of the Omie community of Papua New Guinea, acquired in 2012 with the support of the Art Fund and other donors.
For millennia, Pacific Islanders have made cloth from the bark of trees. Often taking on ceremonial significance, its decoration is extraordinary, with patterns that are enjoyed for their abstraction as much as their symbolism. Today, the practice of barkcloth- making remains a vital aspect of many Pacific Island communities.
Barkcloth is made by soaking and beating the inner bark of specific trees, most commonly the Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). In some places it takes the form of huge sheets featuring optically dynamic patterns, while elsewhere barkcloth features plants and animal life, sacred creatures and mythic narratives. Some cloths were wealth objects, spectacular fabrics many metres in size, which were presented by one clan to another on great ceremonial occasions. Cloth was often understood as a kind of skin, a powerful wrapping for the body which revealed its inner state and identity. Primarily created by women using inherited clan designs, the manufacture of barkcloth formed a major vehicle for both creative expression and social cohesion, maintaining and communicating the artists’ deep connection to their ancestors and country.