Source: Samoan Tapa Cloth, early 20th century, painted free-hand using a number of colors, 87″ x 136″, Skinner Auction, Boston, October 2019
Tapa cloth (or simply tapa) is a bark cloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji. Although the term tapa is international and understood throughout the region, the word is from Tahiti and the Cook Islands. In Samoa, the same cloth is called siapo. The cloth is made from the bark of the siapo or paper mulberry tree, originally introduced to the islands from Southeast Asia. Tapa can be decorated by rubbing, stamping, stenciling, or dyeing. The patterns usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometric patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colors are also used. The particular piece that was the source for this print series was multicolored, including black, yellow, aquamarine, violet-blue, red, pink, and rust brown. In the print series, this was reduced to black, grey, and aquamarine on white.