The other day, Bernie and I went down to Kingston to have some morning tea in the REO cafe, which is situated in the Royal Engineers' Cottage in the Penal Settlement area.
While there we took the opportunity to view the exhibition pf artwork on Tapa cloth by Meralda Warren from Pitcairn Island. Meralda is a proud and energetic Pitcairn Islander who has devoted much of her life to promoting and preserving the culture and the skills of her people and her island. She has been an inspiration to many Norfolk Islanders and has encouraged them to value their traditional culture and skills.
Meralda has worked with traditional woodcarving, and has produced a Pitcairn Island cookery book. In recent years, however, she has felt a strong responsibility to revive and teach the art of making tapa cloth.
There was a time when tapa cloth was the main form of textile in Polynesia, and was made for both bedding and clothing. Tapa is made by pounding the bark from trees such as the Pacific mulberry. It is a slow and tedious process.
The practice of making the cloth was discouraged for a period of time by the missionaries, but Meralda has decided to revive it and teach it. At the same time she is taking it to new levels by making artwork using inks/dyes that she has produced from local plants, and even from smoke.
Meralda's pictures tell the traditional stories of Pitcairn Island, including the unique beginnings of the community after the Mutiny on the Bounty.
Included in the exhibition were some tapa pictures that have been made by some of the younger generation on Pitcairn Island, under Meralda's guidance.
This information gives some background to Meralda's work.
We really enjoyed our morning at the REO cafe, in this beautiful little Georgian buiding with its very special architectural features.
When I came home I scrolled through some of my photos and found this one, given to me by our friend Pauline, of Meralda giving Mauatua (Pauline's daughter) some early lessons in beating out the cloth. This picture was taken in Tahiti.
And here is a piece of tapa cloth made by Pauline using bark from the Pacific Banyan.