Cora-Allan Lafaiki Twiss
Since beginning my Hiapo practice in 2016 I have been obsessed with tapa and seeing the differences of bark cloth practices in many different communities worldwide. But especially those from the Pacific realm. I’m pretty sure at this point in my career that I can be given an image of Pacific tapa and name the island of where it came from.
Dard’s book is filled with drawings, images, and samples of tapa that give a broader sense of the tapa making process from the different communities that he visited. This is something I found very different to other tapa sampler books like the one Alexander Shaw created using the tapa that Captain Cook collected during his trips to the Pacific. Dard’s book for me gives a clearer engagement with the community and their processes.
His line drawings of tapa making tools were fascinating as they reminded me of my drawings in my journals from my early years of research when I was figuring out the hiapo tools I would need to begin my practice. I took measurements of the Ike (beater) in museum collections and continued to compare with other islands before settling on the design of my tools. I began with making tools that would fit my hand and what I thought would fit my style of hiapo making. It made me wonder what other drawings you might find in a tapa makers journal in regard to the designing of their own specific tools.
I also enjoyed the way he had some tools on pages laid out almost in comparison. If we think about the sizes of tapa cloth from different islands the shape often changed due to this, as an example I have found Tongan and Fiji tools to be wider and heavier as they produce large amounts of tapa in a collective group and spread the cloth out very fast when they beat.
From line drawings, to creating tools, to then making the sounds of hiapo tapping on the tutua (anvil) it is such a transition and movement in the learning process that I will never forget making my first sound. When I was learning about hiapo during my first visit to Niue a lady sung the words, “tutu hiapo, tutu tutu hiapo” the sound of her singing is often in my mind when I am beating. When I first made sounds at the tutua the sound was so foreign to my Samoan tutor she asked me if that was a Niue sound of beating tapa cloth. I naturally had a rhythm when I beat and compared to today my sound has changed at different parts and also, I have learnt to enjoy the process and not rush it.
After seeing similar books to Dard’s, I have been inspired to make small artist books and little versions of samplers myself. However, they are not elaborate and large like this one. They are more like studies of thoughts that happen to be in book form and capture a moment of my thoughts during ideas of change and experimentation. One of these books was filled with still life objects that were given to me from my nana and contained hiapo tools and objects pertaining to my practice. I often look at these and think they are little polaroids of my hiapo practice and connect straight back to Niue.
At the moment I am thinking about the next book that I am wanting to release and what that may look like as a resource that’s helpful to other creators. Sampler books like Dard’s have given me thoughts of how to layout patterns and text in a way that is beautiful but also simple enough to be digestible and easy to learn from.