Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Sash (Lafi)

late 19th–early 20th century
Wallis and Futuna Territory
Wallis and Futuna Territory
Barkcloth, pigment
H. 22 x W. 143 1/4 in. (55.9 x 363.9 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
Created in myriad forms and varieties, Polynesian bark cloth, often referred to by one of its Polynesian names, tapa, is produced exclusively by women. Bark cloth is a paper-like textile typically manufactured from the soft inner bark of the paper mulberry tree, strips of which are pounded and then felted or glued together to produce large sheets. It was the only form of cloth in Polynesia prior to Western contact. Employed in virtually every aspect of daily and ceremonial life, bark cloths are, or were, produced in countless forms and sizes, from smaller pieces used as garments or to wrap sacred or precious objects to enormous ritual textiles, at times more than one hundred yards (92 meters) long, which are displayed and exchanged as ceremonial gifts during important life passage rites such as marriages and funerals. While many of its former functions have been supplanted by the introduction of imported cloth, bark cloth continues to play a vital role in ceremonial life in many parts of Polynesia, especially in the western Polynesian archipelagos of Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa.
Seidler, until 1968; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1968, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1968–1978

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