kapa kulture

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

Tapa in Niue

On the island of Niue, hiapo is the term for bark cloth. When Samoan missionaries came to Niue in 1830, it is recorded that they brought hiapo with them, along with the Tahitian tiputa, which is a sort of poncho. It is reasonable to believe that this cultural sharing could be a historical bridge between Samoan and the Society Islands,arising not only from Missionary influence, but also as a result of a long history of inter-island voyaging typical of canoe expeditions in the region.

Although the hiapo is said to have come originally from Samoa, the quality in Niue is different from Samoan siapo. Samples from Niue, are made by felting layers into a single sheet the way it’s done in the Cook Islands. The mystery about hiapo of Niue is that no one knows what it is made for, since the size seems to be small for clothing or blankets. Speculation has it that the very creative designs on Niuen hiapo were made for some sort of commercial purpose. Perhaps the artistry involved points to a creative purpose that served as a pastime activity? Since 1901, no hiapo has been produced in Niue.

The designs on Niuen hiapo are not made with the rubbing method. The Niuens decorated their hiapo with freehand painting that is similar to the Samoan style. Rectangular or circular design compositions with abstract forms and plant forms are drawn with fine black lines, in a grid formation. Occasionally, people, stars, and fish are also drawn into the design. Hiapo beaters found in Niue, called ike, are unique to Niue. The ike are carved with very fine grooves and shaped with a cuff on the handle.

(Neich & Pendergrast, Pacific Tapa, 1997).

Niuen Hiapo

Niuen Hiapo

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2 thoughts on “Tapa in Niue

  1. Hi there, thanks for the information. We were wondering where this image comes from and if we would be able to use it in the background of a book cover project we are working on?

    • Hi Tim,

      This image comes from a book called Pacific Tapa, by Mick Pendergrast and Roger Neich (Neich & Pendergrast, Pacific Tapa, 1997). Great book, wonderful images and stories. All the best on your project. Aloha, Rednalu

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