Artist: Ana Vea 1 artifacts total
Ana Vea and her niece, Elsie Latu, make tapa cloths for weddings, birthdays, funerals and other traditional occassions. Both tapa makers learned from their mothers and grandmothers at home in Tonga. Tapas are made from the inner bark of trees, which, after drying thoroughly, is soaked and pounded repeatedly with a blunt, hammer-like instrument until it is flat and wide. Once the cloth is workable, the bark from different trees is wrung until burnt orange or reddish-brown dye is produced. The cloth is then dyed and traditional patterns are applied using hundreds of intertwined hairs from the exterior of cocunut shells.
Here in Utah, both Ana and Elsie use other contemporary cloth materials to create tapas that are stronger and last longer. Ana uses a mixture of tapioca pudding and flour to paste cloth together, creating a very durable work surface. Templates made of a heavy card stock and twine allow Ana to create a repeated pattern in the traditional style. The cloth is then laid over the template, and store-bought paint is applied over the top in a rubbing motion. Later, Ana touches up the designs with a fine brush where the coconut shell hairs would be, giving the tapa its final, textured look and feel.
Courtesy of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center