Title Display|Funerary Cloth (Masi, Tapa)
Date Ca. 1960
Medium Barkcloth and pigment
Dimensions Object: 69 3/4 × 108 7/8 in. (177.2 × 276.5 cm)
Overall: 69 3/4 x 108 7/8 in. (177.2 x 276.5 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Professor Randall Baker, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2003.159
About this Work
Although geographically considered a part of Melanesia, culturally Fiji falls into the Polynesian sphere. In Fiji, masi traditionally was created to celebrate life, to honor death, and to commemorate weddings, and it continues to be a vital part of present-day Fijian ritual and customs. Black and brown are the dominant colors used in this barkcloth, pointing to its Fijian origins. Brown pigment is derived from the mangrove plant and is mixed with candlenut bark, whereas the black is from charred candlenuts or burnt tree resin from the dakua tree.
Fijian tapa is also distinguished by its intricate patterning. Sometimes the patterns can symbolize the artist’s tribulations, or they can suggest simple pleasures of the Fijian lifestyle. This particular piece of tapa is said to have been displayed in the Montreal Expo of 1967 (although Fiji was not represented at the fair), and it was likely made during the 1960s for a high-ranking chief.