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Collection Artifact Details

Bark Cloth

Type: Yarn, Fabric and Fabric Finishing Material
Object Name: Bark Cloth
Local Name: tapa
Place Made: Oceania: Pacific Islands, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya, Lake Sentani region
People: Asmat
Period: 20th century
Date: 1900 - 1999
Dimensions: L 68 cm x W 83 cm
Materials: Bark
Techniques: Pounded; painted
ID Number: T2006.30.10
Credit: Gift of Max Allen

In the tropics, where the climate is too hot or wet to produce wool, silk or cotton, people make cloth not by weaving it, but by pounding it from the bark of trees. Sheets of soft inner bark are pounded on wooden anvils to soften and expand them. Sometimes the sheets are joined together to make huge cloths used as carpets or ceremonial hangings. Smaller pieces are used as clothing. Bark-cloth is decorated by free-hand painting, by stencilling, or by rubbing it over carved, pattern blocks. Bark-cloth has been used around the equator since the dawn of history.