We just introduced on our website a new artisan and some of her initial offerings. Melenaite Tovo, a Tongan cultural expert, has created ngatu, or tapa as it is known in English, for us. Her first 5 pieces are now online available in our artisan section. She hand paints each piece using traditional methods. It goes without saying that each piece is unique and one of a kind.
The tapa or ngatu are typical small pieces that depict traditional Tongan motifs. The piece that you see here features the Kalou which represents the inside cross-section of the mapa seed. This is surrounded by borders of the design called Manulua, one of the oldest of Polynesian design and Fata 'o Tu'i Tonga which refer to the sennit bindings that hold the central beam in a royal house.
In addition to our initial offerings, check back soon for the introduction of the larger pieces (seen here below) which can be used for a number of uses including costumes, wall hangings and other creative uses.
Today, ngatu is used for gifts, ritual dress and decorations. In Tongan culture, tapa making continues to occupy a position of importance and prestige. The methods used today are the same as in ancient times before the European explorers set foot on the "friendly islands."
Take a look at a video introducing how Tongan tapa is made. This is a film produced by the Documentary Educational Resources company.