Skip to content
  • 9am–5pm
  • Free general admission
  • Shop

We are no longer updating this page and it is not optimised for mobile devices.

You are in site section: Explore

Barkcloth 'ahu

Barkcloth 'ahu

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Barkcloth

Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 88 cm, w. 89 cm, Inv. Oz 605

Humphrey No.18: ‘A piece of thin bark Cloth, of a yellow colour, stained with red in form of rings, from the society Isles.’

Note Kaeppler (file card Oz 605): ‘skin soft, beaten with very fine lined beater, made by a piece of bamboo dipped in red dye.’

The barkcloth is single-layered and made of thin, fine fibre material. The fine lines caused by the barkcloth beater, tupai are easy to recognize. One border of the piece is cut unevenly. In one of the corners is a label with the Humphrey No.18. The whole cloth is dyed a yellowish colour (cf. Oz 600) and has a pattern which is evenly distributed over two-thirds of the surface. The red pattern consists of dots, and either two or four semicircles which are in the shape of a curved x, or with the four curves more or less clearly touching.

On the Society Islands the stamps were typically bamboo pipes dipped in dye; in addition, figures were also drawn on freehand. During later European contact, around the turn of the nineteenth century, flowers, leaves and ferns were increasingly used, these being dipped in dye and then pressed on to the cloth (cf. Forster 1783: 387; Hambruch 1926:39 f.; D’Alleva 1995: 33ff.). Gundolf Krüger


D’Alleva, Anne, ‘Change and continuity in decorated Tahitian barkcloth from Bligh’s second breadfruit voyage, 1791-1793’, Journal of the Pacific Arts, 1995, nos 11-12, pp. 29-42.

Forster, Georg, Bemerkungen über Gegenstande der physischen Erdbeschreibung, Naturgeschichte und sittlichen Philosophie auf seiner Reise um die Welt gesammlet. Uebersetzt und mit Anmerkungen vermehrt von dessen Sohn und Reisegefährten Georg Forster, Berlin, 1783.

Hambruch, Paul, Ozeanische Rindenstoffe, Oldenburg, 1926.

Related artefacts

Barkcloth 'ahu, Inv. Oz 605
Barkcloth 'ahu, Inv. Oz 613
Barkcloth 'ahu, Inv. Oz 614


Return to Top