barkcloth (cloth)


Karen Jacobs, DDF Pacific 2015.

This tapa was given to the donor by Miss Margaret Bradbrook who was with the New Guinea Mission stationed at Dogura. Dogura at Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea is also the location of the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea's only traditional European-style cathedral of substantial size and built of masonry. It was consecrated on 29 October 1939.

The Collingwood Bay region, Milne Bay Province, is known for barkcloth made by women. The bark is taken from the Wuwusi – the local name for the paper mulberry tree. Women prepare the barkcloth by harvesting the inner layer of bark which they rinse and then fold and pound repetitiously on flat stones using black palm mallets until a strong, fibrous sheet of cloth is produced. The cloth is then left to dry in the sun. Ancient clan designs are painted in freehand onto the cloth using red paint (dun). In the past this paint was considered to have magical qualities and was strictly restricted to women. Even saying the name of the paint dun was deemed taboo for fear it would make it ineffective. It was called taabuta (blood) – as such expressing the strong link with women and their reproductive qualities. Women’s reproductive blood seems to be flowing in clan tapa, thereby contributing to the reproduction of their husband’s and father’s clan (see Hermkens 2013 for more information).

Length = 1290mm, Width = 560mm. Bradbrook collection.

This object is not on display.

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