Tapa Treasures from the Pacific

A Young Woman of Otaheite Bringing a Present (detail)  c. 1784

Before the world knew cloth there was tapa, or barkcloth, which worked its way into the heart of human interactions throughout the Pacific. Made from the inner bark of trees, it was used for clothing and furnishings, to wrap babies and the deceased, as wicks in oil lamps, and presented at important ceremonial occasions and in performances by Polynesian people. It was a crucial part of the world which Captain James Cook and his fellow travellers encountered, and it is through this precious and rare material that we can reveal many stories.

Discover hidden tapa treasures from the Library’s collection, many of which have rarely seen the light of day since Cook’s voyages.

Image: Francesco Bartolozzi (1727–1815), A Young Woman of Otaheite Bringing a Present (detail)  c. 1784, nla.cat-vn1407377