Search our collections

Advanced Search

Object: Hiapo (tapa cloth)

This image has No Known Copyright Restrictions.

Title Hiapo (tapa cloth)
Production Unknown, 1800s, Niue
Medium summary tapa cloth
Materials bark cloth, dye
Classification ceremonial objects
Dimensions Overall: 1890mm (Length) x 1580mm (Width)
Credit line Augustus Hamilton Collection. Purchased 1914
Registration number FE000278

This is a hiapo, a decorated barkcloth from Niue. Little is known of pre-nineteenth-century forms of Niuean cloth, except that, in the 1830s, Samoan methods of decorating barkcloth were introduced to Niue by Samoan missionaries. Consequently, the patterns and motifs on Niuean hiapo from the mid nineteenth century are often indistinguishable from Samoan pieces of the same period.

Materials and decoration
This hiapo is made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree. It has been decorated with hand-drawn motifs. In the 1880s, many hiapo were produced with a new style of fine freehand decoration. Comprising intricate line work and detailed motifs based on various species of plants, a distinctly Niuean iconography developed. Some scholars believe that many hiapo from this period were made by a single small community on Niue. They make this claim on the basis of a continuity of style and motifs, and the recurrence of particular peoples' names on signed pieces of hiapo.

This hiapo is one of several Niuean barkcloth items, including tiputa (ponchos), that was collected around the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Augustus Hamilton, Director of the Dominion Museum (Te Papa's predecessor) from 1903 to 1913.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.