Inspiration in the detail: documenting upeti fala and upeti at Canterbury Museum

Inspiration in the detail: documenting upeti fala and upeti at Canterbury Museum

BY ROGER FYFE AND AMY FINDLATER

ABSTRACT
One wooden and four textile siapo/tapa design boards provenanced to Samoa, known as upeti and upeti fala
respectively, from Canterbury Museum’s collections are thoroughly described, documented and illustrated.
Relevant literature is reviewed and evaluated against the findings of this material culture analysis. The
implications of the new information about upeti fala and upeti are discussed and potential areas of new research
are suggested.

KEYWORDS
upeti fala; siapo; tapa; barkcloth; Samoan textiles; gender; design tablets; Pacific design

INTRODUCTION
Amongst collections of Samoan material culture, design tablets called upeti fala remain largely undocumented.
Upeti fala are made from layers of pandanus (Pandanus sp.) leaf strips to which raised elements of pandanus leaf,
coconut (Cocos nucifera) fibre cordage (sennit), and coconut leaf riblets are sewn. Like their later wooden counterparts called upeti, they were once commonly used as templates in the decoration of barkcloth traditionally called siapo in Samoa. Siapo was made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree (Broussoneta papyrifera) and
is more widely recognised as tapa by non-Polynesian speakers.      

SOURCE: Records of the Canterbury Museum, 2011 Vol. 25: 91-108 © Canterbury Museum 2011
Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
rfyfe@canterburymuseum.com; afindlater@canterburymuseum.com