Object: Ngatu (tapa cloth)
This image has All Rights Reserved.
Please follow the Buy or license link under each image to apply to use this image. (Charges may apply)
Why you need to apply for the use of this image
Rights for this work may be:
- controlled by the artist, the artist's estate, or other rights holders; or
- unclear - Te Papa will do a more detailed analysis of the work’s rights history; or
- covered by Te Papa’s Mana Taonga principle which supports the rights of holders of traditional knowledge to determine how the image may be used.
You need to make sure you don’t infringe on the rights of third parties before you use this image. Our image request process helps with this. Te Papa does not authorise the use of this image beyond the uses allowed by the “fair dealing” provisions of the New Zealand Copyright Act, 1994.
More information about copyright
We recommend these resources for more information:
- Copyright in NZ - Ministry of Economic Development
- Copyright guidelines and resource - Lianza
- Enabling use and re-use - Digital NZ
Find more information about Te Papa's rights project on our blog, including how rights types are assigned.
Get in touch
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- if you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, or
- if you wish to contact the rights holder for this work. We will assist where we can.
|Title||Ngatu (tapa cloth)|
Unknown, circa 1940s, Tonga
|Materials||bark cloth, dye|
x 1964mm (Length)
x 1600mm (Width)
|Credit line||Gift of Valerie Morris, 1989|
Ngatu is the Tongan name given to tapa cloth or decorated bark cloth. It is made from the inner bark of Hiapo (paper mulberry tree). The pieces of bark are beaten with a mallet, widened and joined together to make larger pieces of cloth. Groups of women work together to decorate the cloth with natural dyes and pigments.
Ngatu are often decorated with motifs and patterns taken from the natural environment or associated with important people and events. Some of the events may be small and very local in nature, others reference bigger moments in time.
This distinctive ngatu features the image of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane. This type of aircraft was used by the United States Air Force in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War. They were usually associated with the 44th Fighter Squadron of the 18th fighter group, which operated out of several stations in the Pacific throughout the war. It is not clear from the records whether the squadron was based in Tonga, but we know that with its long range, the Lightning was used to devastating effect in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
British Spitfire aircraft have also featured on Tongan ngatu. Under the influence of Queen Salote, Tonga raised money to purchase four Spitfire aircraft for Britain during the Second World War. Two of them saw service in battle. Te Papa has a one ngatu with a Spitfire on it and several other examples exist in museums around the world.
Today, the main social function of ngatu is to be a constantly circulating gift, given at weddings, funerals and other special occasions. Very large pieces of ngatu are considered a symbol of wealth. They are important cultural treasures; but can also be historical documents, offering insight into the little and big moments in time as Tongans saw them.
Results from DigitalNZ
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.