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Object: Siapo tasina or Siapo elei (tapa)

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Title Siapo tasina or Siapo elei (tapa)
Production Unknown, Samoa
Medium summary tapa
Materials bark cloth, tapa
Classification textiles
Technique painting techniques
Registration number FE005724

Samoan barkcloth is made from the bark of the u`a or paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera) although in the past it was occasionally made from the inner bark of the breadfruit or banyan tree. It is decorated using dyes made from a variety of trees and plants. The brown dyes come from several sources, the first being the bark of the o`a tree. Scrapings of bark from this tree produce a reddish brown colour. Other sources of brown were the mangrove tree (Rhizophora mucronata) and the candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccana) A source of red-brown colouring was an earth ochre called `ele. It is not found every where in Samoa and in the past was traded quite widely throughout the archipelago.


This is a siapo tasina or siapo `elei. Both are names given to siapo that are decorated using an `upeti; a relief pattern either carved into a plank of timber or made from leaves. In creating a siapo tasina or siapo `elei a plain piece of u`a is placed over the relief pattern of the `upeti and rubbed over with dye. The pattern of the underlying board comes through and marks both sides of the cloth. It is a simple process that works in much the same way as a pencil rubbing off a coin or other raised pattern. Once the cloth is dry a small brush is used to do freehand infilling work on the siapo, elaborating on the lines and shades of the rubbed through patterns. This freehand work can give very different appearances to two siapo created from the same `upeti.

Acquisition History

This siapo was presented to the museum by Mrs FW Moor in 1970.

Related information

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