Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is it a sarong or a pareo?

Does it even matter what you call your wrap around? Well, the short answer is yes.

Imagine walking down a street in Bali, Jakarta, or even New Delhi. A street vendor shows you a selection of "Tahitian Pareos". How can this be? I'm sure the appeal of the design is there. The texture is probably so smooth you have to catch yourself daydreaming about relaxing on a deserted beach being pampered with scented coconut oil and a refreshing pina colada at your side. The ambiance of those exotic places lend to the appeal of the wraparound. Those wraparounds are in fact "Sarongs", not "Pareos".

The origins and process from which the Indonesian Sarong is made is called "Batik". The bright colors, bold patterns and vivid artwork showcase Indonesian inspired motifs. Batik is a dying process that involves labor intensive processes and hard work. There are many great sources describing this process available in libraries and on the internet.

A Tahitian Pareo however, can trace its origins from a totally different source. The tapa cloth of central Polynesia is the forerunner of today's pareo. It's amazing that even though the sarong and the pareo came from different sources, they both share a remarkable similarity in today's culture. The Tahitian Pareo came about after the western explorers introduced fabric textiles to the Tahitian royalty. As more and more western ships arrived, more commercial traders arrived with new materials and goods. They inspired the Tahitians to creatively decorate their new "clothing" similarly to how they decorated their tapa.

Local fauna was a favorite motif and in more recent times, Marquesan tattoos have also become a very visible addition. Originally the designs were placed on the pareo using ferns and flowers pressed in ink and transferred by pressing down on the pareo as desired. Later, block prints were created. And still later screen printing simulating block prints have created an "ancient" look. Today, still another method is being used as well. Textile production has expanded to specialize in ethnic prints including Tahitian.

Another method Tahitian Pareo are being made today is somewhat similar to the batik method. Our very own Mahana Pareo is an example of this method. With photo-sensitive dyes, the fabric is dyed while being tied and twisted to create an "organic" and "natural" free-flowing texture and design. This is similarly done with the Caribbean's "Tie-dye" method. Island salt is lightly sprinked to absorb some of the dye and Tahitian and tropical motifs dye-cuts are placed on the pareo according to the artists' desires. All that needed is a sunny sky and patience.

A main difference between the pareo and the sarong comes from the origins from which they have developed. Motifs and color choices also play into the identity of the wraparound. In places such as Hawaii and the Caribbean, these differences have become somewhat blurred. But there are many out there who can tell the difference and who are searching for the authentic. Black Pearl Designs is committed to bring more and more authentic Tahitian goods to its audience. Maururu.

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