Monday, December 28, 2020

Tapa Cloth Lesson Project

I first heard about Tapa cloth on a visit to Tonga, where my parents lived for two years. The women in South Pacific countries (like Tonga and Samoa) cut down mulberry trees (3 inch in diameter), strip the bark, soak the bark, strip the inner bark and then pound out the fibers with wooden mallets against a flattened log. This widens the strips, but thins them enough that a second layer of bark fibers need to be pounded together for strength. 

These strips are later combined, with a tapioca flour paste, with other strips to make a larger cloth. Long tables with a village's traditional pattern carved into the top allow the women to do rubbings with brownish pigment. 

They work in outdoor pavilions or in the grass, to enhance the rust brown pattern with by painting black ink onto the cloth.

Geometric patterns, or organic symbols such as flowers or turtles are common. I used this assignment to bring some south pacific culture to a lesson on ART PRINCIPLE: repetition/pattern. It also kicked off our unit on TEXTILE ARTS.

My students made crayon rubbings on fabric with their own design. Thin plastic braille book covers were easy to cut into circular or petal shapes, but mat board ended up working better for the rubbings. Students could tape the shapes they arranged to the table and put a piece of paper on top, before rubbing it with the side of a brown crayon to see if they liked it. Woven fabric (unlike authentic tapa) was a little more challenging since it stretched as it was rubbed.

Then students added black marks with everything from puffy paint (for the students would couldn't see their pattern), acrylic, and sharpie markers, before going back to add some more brown watercolor to accent the color).

Tapa cloth is the most important object to Tongans. The process is handed down through generations of women. The product is one that is fit for royalty and is a gift for very special occasions such as births or weddings. It was fun to share Tongan culture, music, and art with my students, as they explore a new medium and process.

No comments:

Post a Comment