In Tonga, tapa cloth is known as ngatu. It is highly valued, and used for special occasions such as wedding and funeral ceremonies. But in the past it was put to more practical use, in bed covers, mosquito netting, sheets, and room dividers.
A single piece of Tongan ngatu can measure up to 100 metres. These very large ngatu often feature the Tongan crest, and symbols of the Tongan royal family. The British lion on some ngatu symbolises Tonga's long relationship with Britain – Tonga became a British protectorate in 1900. Other ngatu record historical events, including the sighting of Halley's comet in 1910.
This collection narrative is based on the Tapa: Pacific Style exhibition on display at Te Papa, level 4 (September 2009 - September 2010).