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Paperskin: Barkcloth across the Pacific

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Stella Upia | Sihae 1 (Sahote clan design of fruit from the tree 1) 2006 | Natural pigments on barkcloth Purchased 2007. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

31 October 2009 – 14 February 2010  | Gallery 4, QAG

Since its introduction from South-East Asia , cloth made from the beaten bark of paper mulberry, banyan and breadfruit trees has played an important role in island cultures in the Pacific. For generations, this cloth has been an essential part of everyday life, as well as being worn and exchanged in familial and political ceremonies and performances. The designs that they carry constitute some of the Pacific’s most breathtaking artistic works.

‘Paperskin’ celebrates this visual sophistication and vitality, displaying examples dating from the eighteenth century to the present. Drawn from the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Museum, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and a private collector, the exhibition features works from Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Hawai’i, Futuna, the Solomon and Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

‘Paperskin’ explores the stories embodied in these cloths. With their evocative visual language of bold and intricate patterning, barkcloths have been likened to tattoos: another skin that envelops the wearer in cultural significance and beauty.

This exhibition is organised by Queensland Art Gallery, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Queensland Museum.

Paperskin: the art of tapa cloth