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Object: Nemasitse (tapa cloth)

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Title Nemasitse (tapa cloth)
Production Unknown, 1800s, Vanuatu
Materials bark cloth
Classification textiles
Dimensions Overall: 2050mm (Length) x 1043mm (Width)
Credit line Augustus Hamilton Collection. Purchased 1914
Registration number FE000273

This is a nemasitse, a tapa cloth made on the island of Erromango in Vanuatu until the early 20th century. According to scholar Kirk Huffman, women made several types of nemasitse that were decorated or plain. Coarser varieties of nemasitse were used as floor coverings, finer pieces as sleeping covers and decorated nemasitse were used as garments worn on important ceremonial occasions.

The making of nemasitse was similar to other tapa making processes in the Pacific. The inner bark of trees was beaten and joined together to produce larger pieces of cloth. Several types of trees were used, but the barks from different trees were never mixed. The cloth was dyed using colours obtained from saps, roots and leaves and decorated with freehand drawn images.

Huffman says that decoration on nemasitse was pictorial in character. Images depicted a wide range of subjects including people, animals, spirits, stars, the moon and historical and ceremonial events.

This nemasitse is attributed to the late 19th century and was collected by Augustus Hamilton, a former director of the museum.

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