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Object: Siapo (tapa cloth)

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Title Siapo (tapa cloth)
Materials bark cloth, dye
Dimensions Approximate: 1985mm (Length) x 762mm (Width)
Credit line Purchased 2010
Registration number FE012568

On Futuna, siapo (tapa cloth) is made in forms ranging from siapo (large sheets) to salatasi or salalua (waist garments), lafi (sashes), and tepi (skirts). Siapo are made from strips of tapa joined together, then decorations are applied with a kupesi (pattern board). Salatasi are made from felted tapa – tapa made of layered sheets – and decorated with fine black-on-white designs in a grid-work pattern. On Uvéa, tapa is known as ngatu. A kupesi board is also used in the decoration, in a style similar to both Samoa and Tonga.


This is a rare example of tapa decorated with pictorial references from the islands of Uvea (Wallis) and Futuna. Usually, tapa from this region is decorated with geometric and fine parallel line work. Human figures, landscape features and other objects are seldom depicted. This siapo depicts two scenes: a range of sea creatures including a puffer fish and an eel swimming around an outrigger sailing canoe with the words Mua Wallis written on the sail. There is also a garden or plantation scene with taro plants, coconut, breadfruit and pawpaw trees growing around a house where a woman visible in the doorway and group of women nearby are mixing and serving kava. The elements in the scenes have been rendered in a range of orange, brown and black pigments.

Acquisition history

This tapa was purchased from a French Brocante (antiques warehouse) in Casteljaloux, in the Lot et Garonne. The vendor said that she found the tapa just folded amongst other pictures and prints with no explanation of their origin. As Wallis Island is a French colony, she suggested it was possible it was brought home by a local French visitor, as the port of Bordeaux is on the coast not far away. The attributed production date for this tapa is based on its similarities to a well documented example in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (accession number 2002.788) that may have been made by the same artist.

Related information

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