Saturday, 29 June 2013

Tapa Barkcloth Workshop @ IKON with Rosanna Raymond

As a visitor assistant working at IKON Gallery in Birmingham it was a pleasure and a privilege to assist again in one of their regular Saturday workshops which this time was held in conjunction with and as a response to the current Tapa Barkcloth Paintings from the Pacific exhibition. The workshop was given by Rosanna Raymond,  a performance and installation artist, writer and poet from New Zealand whose work centres around and is influenced by the traditions and culture of the islands of the Pacific inparticular the amazing painted  barkcloths. Rosanna brought along a selection of barkcloths from her extensive collection some of which are traditional and some contemporary.  I especially loved a pair of jeans she had made from the cloth.

Before work commenced Rosanna took participants on a tour of the exhibition stopping at each barkcloth and explaining in detail the culture and traditions and what life was like for the women islanders, for it was indeed the women, not the men, from each of the villages of the Pacific Islands that would produce the cloth in great reams.

What I did not realise was what a feminist tradition the whole process was and how it was considered very prestigious and an honour for women islanders to get involved in producing the cloth often from an early age and as a rites of passage. It was very much a communal way of life for the women who would gather together, often all working on one huge barkcloth, chanting to the beat of the pounding of the bark.

Rosanna and Jo hidden behind one of the barkcloths 

Here you can get an idea of just how voluminous some of the barkcloths are as Rosanna drapes one round Jo in cermemonial fashion. 

Rosanna also gave a presentation of slides showing typical examples of how the barkcloth was worn and used.

Typical ceremonial barkcloth dress

Example of how the barkcloth can be used in contemporary fashion

Frockcoat made from Barkcloth

Close up of one of Rosanna's barkcloths

On then to the nitty gritty of printing and painting on to fabric when everyone started to literally get their hands dirty, having taken their inspiration from the designs and motifs seen in the exhibition. You can see below stencils cut from banana leaves which was one of the traditional methods used for printing, dating back to the late 19th century.

Below are the fruits of everyone's labour displayed in our makeshift gallery. 

A very productive workshop with some really very fine work.  For anyone who hasn't yet seen the splendid Tapa Barkcloth exhibition, there is still two more weeks to go so but make sure you get in a visit soon as it finishes on the 14th July and I can highly recommend it.   


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