Kerei : hiapo in tapestry

As I mentioned in Urban Viti is Born!, one of the reasons I started this blog was because of things (rugs, beddings, clothes, furniture etc) I’ve come across online that in my opinion have Pacific influences in its design.

I’ll be sharing these finds in a new blog post called Kerei, meaning to borrow or borrowed in Fijian.

Thanks to the two Precious ones for their input on the title! You know who you are , you precious ones.

First up is a tapestry from Urban Outfitters in the US (they have stores in Europe and ship to Australia).

Sketch Doodle Tapestry US$36.00

Image via Urban Outfitters

This cotton “Sketch Doodle Tapestry” (I hate the product name!!!!) reminds me of Niuean hiapo and its stylistic features with the  use of botanical motifs within a grid.

Hiapo is barkcloth made from the paper mulberry tree. Also known as tapa, siapo, aute, kapa, and ngatu depending on which Pacific Island you’re from.

Urban Outfitters describes the tapestry as a “Perfect for topping your bed, couch, window or wall… the possibilities are anything but sketchy!”…gee, their writers sure are witty.

Image via Spanglystuff

Now for me, when I see or hear about Niuean hiapo I automatically think of John Pule.

John Pule’s paintings and prints are loosely but powerfully inspired by the hiapo and by the violent and symbolically potent history of ‘Savage Island’. He does not reproduce motifs as though he were simply reviving a dormant tradition. His painting acknowledges the hiapo as a potent ancestral force, but as one that must be deferred to in a special way precisely because the world has changed enormously since the hiapo were painted for funerals and for other ceremonial circumstances.

Source:  Nicholas Thomas / Catalogue notes for the exhibition Savage Island Hiapo. Djamu Gallery, Australian Museum. Curated by Nicholas Thomas, Dec 1998-Jan 1999.

John Pule, Pokia, 1999.

Image via Prints and Printmaking Australia

What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Kerei : hiapo in tapestry

  1. Jemine says:

    Its really great that someone recognised the pattern being extracted from the Niuean ‘hiapo’. We rarely hear or see things related in any way to our culture as we are small and scattered all over the world and I do hope that we are able to realise that we have the same potential in the world to be recognised as individuals.

  2. Dulcie S. says:

    Thanks Jemine for your comments. I’ve come across so many products – be it clothes, jewelry, furniture etc that in my opinion have Pacific influences. We as Pacific Islanders need to realise our potentials and start creating.

  3. fifineniue says:

    That tapestry design or pattern is specifically Niuean Hiapo no doubt about that! Fijian’s call theirs Masi, Samoans – Siapo and Tongans Tapa…..Some cultural things and patterns/designs should not be used loosely like this for such companies like ‘urban outfitters’. We are already loosing these designs and in the wrong hands. As a niuean graphic designer I totally agree that we should see more hiapo in mainstream, but hiapo that’s not directly correlated to a specific meaning or something special and tapu. Hiapo designs that would work in mainstream are vector types, not copied originals. I’m offended they call that hiapo tapestry – Sketch doodle tapestry. Pacific peoples need to keep their culture alive, their rich history and also their beautiful art, craft and designs. There is so much potential for pacific people to get creative and to keep our original pieces/works safe and sacred.

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