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Tapa, A Tongan Treasure

Our project

Tapa and Tongan weddings

Using tapa in church

My views on the tapa tradition

The story of grandmother's tapa cloth

The tapa making process

How tapa cloth is used and valued

Research process

Our team


Marcellin College

Tapa , A Tongan Treasure

My views on the tapa tradition

My Name is Sekonaia.

I am Tongan but I was born in New Zealand. My parents were born in Tonga. I feel great about being a Tongan because our country is peaceful and it is a kingdom. I visited Tonga in 1999. I went to Nuku Nuku because my grandma lives there. She stays home. She is too old to make tapa now, so she asks all her daughters to do it for her. I saw tapa being made and painted with black dyes.

Then I helped them to paint it. They did the outlines and then they asked the kids to paint it for them while they had a rest. The tapa I helped to make went to the minister of the church to display on the church wall. I saw it up and it looked really good. I felt proud when I saw it. We made a lot more ngatu after that.

I have tapa cloths at home. I helped to make them. Grandma sent us the tapa cloth and then me and my mum decorated it. My grandma taught my Mum the patterns years ago and these are the ones we use. Mum outlines the patterns and me and my sisters colour them in. My favourite pattern is like a fish. I don't know what it is called.

It takes about three hours to decorate the tapa and then we leave it in the sun. We keep the tapa at home until we hear there is something important like a baptism and then we give it as a gift. 

I have about five pieces of tapa of my own and I keep them under my mattress. If I need to keep warm I could use them as a blanket. I got these tapa cloths when I was born. People gave them to me to wrap around me. In the future I might need them to decorate a house. My sister has some tapa of her own as well, but my mother has a lot. She shares it with my Dad.

We use it in New Zealand in exactly the same way as way as we use it in Tonga. We buy tapa from Tonga or we can buy it in New Zealand. We use tapa for many different reasons such as weddings, funerals and birthdays. We also use it to celebrate a newborn in the family.

In New Zealand we want to keep our tapa nice and flat so we store it under the mattress. When I get older I want to keep creating tapa so I can give it to my family if they don't have any. I have 13 aunties and heaps of cousins so there will always be family members who need my tapa.

Tapa is important in our family because we Tongans use it a lot. The tapa tradition is still strong, even in New Zealand. Every time there is a Tongan function there are always different types of tapa.

I think that the tapa tradition has come a long way, and it would be a shame if it was not carried on. Every piece has a story behind it.

I think that the best way for children to learn about tapa is to ask their elders questions about how it was in the old days, and from books.