Inspiration for Luna’s Tapa Ukulele

The design for Luna’s TAPA ukulele was based on traditional Tapa Cloth of the pacific islands and executed by Alex Morgan, our UK artist in residence.

Tapa cloth (or simply tapa) is a bark cloth made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera) on the islands of the pacific ocean. In Hawaii it is called Kapa. It was originally made from the bark of the Dye-fig (Ficus tinctoria) and other native species until the mulberry was introduced from S.E. asia during early migration voyages.

In the South Pacific, women traditionally scraped out the inner bark of the mulberry tree and patiently spend hours beating the bark to make a beautiful eco-textile called tapa. Paper-like in texture, the fabric is colored with natural dyes and painted with tribal designs and then used as for clothing, room dividers, blankets, wall-hangings, and wedding and ceremonial costumes. Native cultures in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and other Polynesian islands still hand make the cloth and use it in their everyday life, and some designers now are even using the textile to create more traditional clothing.

Tapa can be painted, decorated by rubbing, stamping, stenciling, smoking or dyeing. Natural dyes and paints are made from plants (mangrove, blood tree, candlenut, lipstick tree, turmeric root, banana to name a few). Traditional colors are brown, red and black though brighter colors are also used. The traditional design elements used in decoration are typically plant or animal motifs or other images from island life. The fabric is stiff like paper. Although durable under normal conditions, it loses stability when wet.

Although methods vary amongst islands, here is a Hawaiian video that does a good job of quickly explaining the tedious process of creating tapa/kapa.

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This Tahitian video (with much wilder music!) shows the process in real time which is amazing to behold.
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The photos below are taken from an article on eco-fabrics (www.ecouterre.com) They are meant to give just a glimpse of this complex and amazing tradition.