Tahiti is one of the 118 islands of French
Polynesia and is the largest and most populated with the unique capital
city of Papeete. Sometimes people refer to all of French Polynesia as
Tahiti but this is not correct. It is located about 2700 miles south
of Hawaii and 3600 miles east of Australia. French and Tahitian are
the official languages. Artistic and cultural expression can be seen
in woodcarving which is done primarily by men, and weaving of hats,
purses, bags and mats from plant fibers of the pandanus, coconut and
reed. Other art forms are the tifaifai which are hand sewn bedcovers
with plant and cultural themes and lastly stone carvings for decorative
and useful items. Stone carvings were thought to hold spiritual powers
and only trained specialists were allowed to carve them. The last cultural
craft tradition is mother of pearl for embellishments and jewelry.
911-1 Tiki Tapa Bookmark:
The technique of beating bark to make a vegetable fabric is made in
many island cultures. Tapa from Tahiti is one of the best known and
special for its high quality. In Tahiti making tapa is a woman’s
job. First men plant the breadfruit and paper mulberry tree. When the
trees mature, they are cut down by the men. Then the bark is removed.
Then the women start their part. They soak the bundles of bark in a
stream, and then scratch away the outside bark with a shell. The inside
remaining strips are placed on top of each other and then the hammering
begins. They use a square beater with carved grooves that get progressively
finer. The bark is hammered thinly or layered for a thicker cloth. The
fabric is dried and then some are dyed red or yellow. Designs are then
911-2 Monkey pod drum:
The Pahu or drum is made of monkey pod wood in a special Tahitian style.
During the making of tapa, the beating of the drum with chants gives
the rhythm to the process. The wood grain of the Tahitian drum has contrasting
light to dark tones and carving is added to enhance the design.
911-3 Fish Mobile:
Fishing is a mainstay of the diet and industry of Tahiti along with
tourism. The waters surrounding Tahiti are home to some of the most
beautiful tropical species of fish.
In the tradition of hand sewn bedcovers – hands on creates a pillow
using appliqué techniques with a plant theme featuring the palms
of Tahiti. In the Tahitian language tifaifai means to mend or patch.
The Tifaifai technique is to fold the fabric in half and then in half
again. The paper pattern is then placed over the folded fabric and pinned
and all four layers are cut at the same time. The design is then unfolded
and stitched t the background fabric.