Tapa Designs from the Kupesi of Tonga
Kupesi design tablets in Tonga are constructed by sewing coconut midribs onto a pandanus or coconut leaf sheath. This style of kupesi, which is still used today, is believed to have spread from Tonga to Fiji and Samoa, and beyond to other islands (tongabarkcloth.com).
The designs on Tongan ngatu are known for commemorating historical events in their motifs. Such memorable things in the life of Tongans as the introduction of bicycles, electric poles, and other historical events have been recorded in ngatu designs to document these occasions. Abstract and natural motifs are used. Ngatu ʻuli is black and used only for funerals, whereas ngatu tahina was lighter and used commonly.
Although ngatu is not worn as clothing anymore it is still highly valued. It continues to be a very important traditional koloa (treasure of women) and given as a gift item at ceremonies such as births, weddings, and funerals. It is given in amounts that make a statement about rank and social standing. This is an important facet of Tongan culture and has been recognized by scholars as part of the Tongan cultural system of gift exchange in a ceremonial economy.