Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursdays With Bro. C.

I was telling Bro. C that I got a beautiful picture of Tapa (Kapa in Hawaii) cloth and wanted to write about its history. He was happy about that because we have been talking about it every so often for awhile now. Hawaiian tapa cloth is the best of the Polynesian tapa cloths because it is very soft and can be washed and used again. Making tapa is an ancient and painstaking art. The best bark for tapa cloth comes from the Wauke tree (paper mulberry). It is grown and harvested just for cloth making. I have used mulberry cloth in scrap booking and it is beautiful paper. The Wauke tree is grown, cultivated and watered for 2 years. It is then cut down and the outer dark bark, limbs and leaves are carefully scraped off. It will be about 2" in size. The inside layer of bark is cream colored and is called the 'ili. This layer of "skin" is carefully removed and beaten with a special mallet called a hohoa'. It might might with patience spread out to be about 6" wide. It will then be wrapped in Ti leaves lau lau style and kept in a bag to rest for 2 weeks. The second beating will take longer and requires more patience because to get the cloth to be as wide as wanted other strips of tapa need to be laid on top of each other and beat together until they blend so well there are no seams or sign where they have been joined together. The final beating is made with a l'ekuku mallet. It has a pattern or watermark carved into it and the tapa cloth will take up the design as it is pounded. After the design is embedded in the cloth it is painted. Hawaiians love bright colors and so they make dyes with leaves, flowers, barks, nuts and all manner of things from nature to make them. These wonderful cloths were used for clothing, bedding, and as wall hangings. The process , designs and tools used are very important to the people. It is a very reverent and humble process.

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