Celebrating barkcloth

In October I blogged about a project looking at Pacific barkcloth. The project was entitled Situating Pacific Barkcloth in Time and Place. I highly recommend taking a look at their website as new material is constantly being added. It has some excellent videos showing how barkcloth is produced and decorated.

Kew EBC 42861. Samoan tiputa or poncho, hand-painted in the tradition of siapo mamanu cloths. (© Economic Botany Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

The result of this five year project is a new book on barkcloth.

“Barkcloth or tapa, a cloth made from the inner bark of trees, was widely used in place of woven cloth in the Pacific islands until the 19th century. A ubiquitous material, it was integral to the lives of islanders and used for clothing, furnishings and ritual artefacts. Material Approaches to Polynesian Barkcloth takes a new approach to the study of the history of this region through its barkcloth heritage, focusing on the plants themselves and surviving objects in historic collections. ” Publisher’s website.


The collections involved are from the Hunterian, University of Glasgow; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.


The book is divided into 3 parts:-

Part I: Tapa as Fabric: Bast and Colourants

Part II: Understanding Tapa in Time and Place

Part III: Tapa in Collections and the Community

This book is now available to access free online from Sidestone Press here, or you can buy the print version.

For those who would like to learn more about barkcloth (or simply admire photos of some fantastic examples) I suggest the National Museums Scotland website. They have a collection of over 140 barkcloths, some of which were collected by Captain James Cook.

One example from a slideshow which shows a selection of 110 samples that are part of a compilation bound in half-calf, the majority of these samples were cut from larger pieces of barkcloth that still remain in the Museum’s University Collection.

Exhibition: Fiji – Art and Life in the Pacific

 

sainsbury-centre-fiji-art-and-life-in-the-pacific

Exhibition dates: 15 October 2016 – 12 February 2017

Still open for another two weeks!

The largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Fiji ever assembled, it will take the visitor on a journey through the art and cultural history of Fiji since the late eighteenth century.

Over 270 works of art, including European paintings and historic photographs, are being loaned by exhibition partner the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology at Cambridge, and by the Fiji Museum, the British Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and museums in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Exeter, London, Maidstone, as well as Dresden and Leipzig in Germany.

This exhibition results from a three-year Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project which examined the extensive but little-known Fijian collections in the UK and overseas, and uncovered some significant treasures.

Paintings, drawings and photographs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provide a context for the artworks. These include exquisite watercolours by the intrepid Victorian travel writer and artist Constance Gordon Cumming, and by naval artist James Glen Wilson, who was in Fiji in the 1850s.

For more information, visit the website of the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich.

Exhibitions: Art of the Austronesians – The Legacy of Indo-Pacific Voyaging

Exhibition dates: 24 April – 28 August 2016

Art of the Austronesians, on show at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, explores the history and development of the arts and cultures of the Austronesian-speaking peoples – from their prehistoric origins in what is now Taiwan to their successive seafaring migrations over millennia throughout the Philippines, Indonesia, the Pacific and beyond. The first major exhibition in the United States to examine the visual arts of the entire Austronesian world comparatively in a single project, it features a number of important pieces from the Fowler’s collection. Additional works borrowed from private California-based collections, many on view to the public for the first time, contribute to the remarkable breadth of the installation.

Most of the featured artworks date from the last two hundred years and therefore reflect a variety of accumulated influences. Visitors may, nevertheless, trace their development through time as the Austronesian world expanded, and discern among them repeated themes suggesting a common heritage. With nearly 200 works on view, the exhibition offers visitors a rare glimpse into the cultures of the descendants of these voyaging peoples through their visual arts.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.