kapa kulture

This blog is dedicated to Hawaiian kapa and matters related to Hawai'i nei…kuku kapa e!

Tapa from Fiji is called Masi

Fijian Masi
The term for the beaten cloth in Fiji is masi. The method for making masi is basically the same as in Tonga where it is prepared using a process of soaking and beating the inner bast of the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) is followed by pasting the pounded sheets together for length and strength.

Fiji Masi

Fiji Masi

In the past, men commonly wore a malo or masi, which is a strip of plain white bark cloth wound around the waist and between the legs, with a train billowing behind. The longer the length of the train, the greater the chiefly status. For women, everyday clothing was a skirt called a liku. Masi is considered nearly obsolete for traditional dress since its replacement by western style clothing and textiles. Traditional dress styles using masi are not worn as everyday wear but they are still used for dances and important ceremonies like the installation of a chief, or special family occasions.

Traditional Wedding Dress

Traditional Wedding Dress

Ceremonial masi on the occasions of funerals, weddings, and chiefly ceremonies is ongoing. The bride and groom will be wrapped in long pieces of masi, in the customary fashion, and similar coverings would be worn when chiefs are installed. There is great honor associated with masi and it is a symbol of wealth. Gifts of masi are given in extravagance for marriages. It is a source of pride for the whole village to produce this exchange of wealth. Masi is very significant at death and is presented as a gift when someone dies. There is spiritual power associated with masi, as it was “recognized as having ability to carry the strength of the gods” (Fulmer, 1998).

Fijian Chiefs Wearing Masi Depicted on  Commemorative Stamps

Fijian Chiefs Wearing Masi Depicted on Commemorative Stamps

Design work of Fijian Masi
There is a variety of techniques used in Fiji to decorate the masi. They range from freehand painting with pandanus brushes as in Samoa, to Fijian rollers and stencils, to the design tablets of Tongan influence. The finished lengths of masi decorated using rubbing tablets with midrib patterns are known as gatu vakatoga, translated as “Tongan cloth made in the Tongan way.” Gatu vakaviti is a combination of the Tongan rubbing method and the Fijian stencil application method. Gatu vakaviti literally means, “Tongan cloth in the style of Fiji” (Neich & Pendergrast, 1997).

Do you want to know more about Fiji? Here are two good articles that explain current events, traditional foundations, and colonial history:

TRADITIONAL CHIEFS REMAIN CORNERSTONE IN CHANGING FIJI

Fiji’s military ruler disbands Great Council of Chiefs

Fiji in Oceania

Fiji in Oceania

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5 thoughts on “Tapa from Fiji is called Masi

  1. I was able to gather more info for my school project….thanx for helping..

    • Aloha, e Katherine! Hi! What is your school project about? Where are you writing from and how did you come to be interested in tapa cloth?

      • katherine poese on said:

        Bula Vinaka Rednalu,hi! about my school project…it is about Tapa Making…i went online to search about tapa and how people make tapa, so i was insterested, i thought i would try and make tapa one day…but it really takes a long process…tapa is very useful too…especially during celebrations…

      • Eilaija on said:

        Bula Vinka Rednalu, my name is Eilaija. It’s about my project. Well my project is about Tapa making. I need definitions, it’s processes involved, the types of materials that are required, the daily challenges that are faced during it’s process and how the women overcome this challenges everyday in the process of tapa making.

      • I’m super excited that you are interested in tapa making. Good luck on your research. Let me know if you have any specific questions after you view the site. Aloha mai.

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