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Tapa cloth - Samoa

Siapo (tapa cloth)

Siapo is the Samoan name for tapa cloth, made of bark of the mulberry tree. The bark is stripped off and pounded flat in such a way that it spreads into a cloth.

The tapa cloth is died and bleached by the sun and the trips are pasted together with an arrowroot paste.

The dye is made of clay which is found in the mountains of Samoa. The clay needs to be 'aged' for about 10 years before it can be used to dye the siapo.

Also needed is the sap of a tree. This particular tree is hard to find due to the fact that a lot of these trees have been destroyed by huricanes over the years. However, in the mountains are still valleys with these trees.

The clay will be dried and powdered and mixed with the sap. Then it will be used for the dye (brownish color). The black dye is made of the shoots of a coconut tree. A lot of shoots are needed to make the dye...

The cloth is usually made into square or oblong shapes. The designs are created by placing the cloth over a carved wooden block, called 'upeti', the block is carved with the design, and the design is created on the tapa cloth by rubbing the dyes.

The patterns represent various aspects of the Samoan way of life and are usually black with shades of rust/brown.
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