#1. The inner bark is stripped from the mulberry tree, hung in the sun to dry, rolled and stored until needed. It must be soaked overnight before using. The strips are then placed over a smooth wooden log and pounded with a square, four-sided wooden mallet. Three sides of the mallet are carved with grooves, each side with a different size of grooves, the fourth side is smooth. The strips are folded and pounded a number of times, each time using a side of the mallet with smaller grooves to lock the fibers of the bark together and spread it wider. In the final step the flat side of the mallet is used to smooth out the bark, which is starting to look like tapa cloth.
#2. In the next step, a nonedible variety of tapioca root is partially cooked to make a type of "glue stick". Sheets are "glued" together to make large tapas.
#3. A traditional embossed pattern is selected and the tapa cloth is placed on the top.
#4. A fresh brown dye, squeezed from the bark of the koka tree, is used to mark the pattern. As the dye ages, it darkens, and it is used to highlight the patterns, resulting in varying shades from brown to black. Go to "Using Tapa" to see the finished product


All pictures and items contained on this page were created and/or gathered by me, with noted exceptions of ABC's and NBC's pictures. 1999, 2000 by webmaster of Tonga 2K.