Exhibition: Shifting Patterns – Pacific Barkcloth Clothing

 

British Museum - Pacific Barkcloth

Exhibition dates: 5 February – 6 December 2015

Discover a selection of textiles from the Pacific made from barkcloth. Used to wrap, drape and adorn the body in a myriad of styles and designs, these garments demonstrate the long history of barkcloth and its ongoing relevance today.

In the islands of the Pacific, cloth made from the inner bark of trees is a distinctive art tradition. Probably brought to the region at least 5,000 years ago by some of the first human settlers, its designs reflect the histories of each island group and the creativity of the makers. Spanning the region from New Guinea in the west to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east, the exhibition shows a selection of 77 garments, headdresses, masks and body adornments from the museum’s collection. Dating from the 1700s to 2014, the pieces on display include those worn as everyday items and ceremonial costumes linked to key lifecycle events such as initiation and marriage.

New arenas for cultural expression continue to emerge through barkcloth creations, as urban Pacific Island designers incorporate barkcloth elements and patterns into garments intended for the catwalk. A stunning wedding dress made by New Zealand-based Samoan designer, Paula Chan Cheuk illustrates this movement and reflects the continuing relevance of barkcloth as a flexible, resilient art tradition.

For more information, visit the website of the British Museum.

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