The volcanic soil of some atolls in the Southern Cook Islands was fertile ground for tapa-making trees, particularly paper mulberry, but also banyan and breadfruit trees.
In pre-European times, Cook Islanders used tapa to wrap ceremonial objects such as staff gods (wooden staffs carved with figures) that came mostly from the island of Rarotonga. On the atoll of Mangaia, tapa was used during the 1800s to make pare'eva (festival masks) worn at 'eva, celebrations commemorating ancient gods and local brave men.
From the early 1900s, tapa-making in the Cook Islands decreased. But the last few years have seen a small scale revival in this art.
This collection narrative is based on the Tapa: Pacific Style exhibition on display at Te Papa, level 4 (September 2009 - September 2010).