I saw a fabulous exhibition this week at the British Museum – Shifting Patterns Pacific barkcloth clothing, free entry and on until 06 Dec 2015. I highly recommend it. I was interested in the patterned designs and how they were made on the barkcloth – although the making of the barkcloth itself is also fascinating and a laborious process.
Patterns are made by; embossing using carved beaters; printing using carved stamps; rubbing pigments on the cloth once it is placed over a patterned tablet to bring out the design; direct painting onto the cloth and using stencils; and dyeing the cloth.
The barkcloth is used to make garments, headdresses, masks, and body adornments. The designs and patterns are specific to different peoples and have different meanings. Women generally make and decorate the cloth; but depending on the area women may not be allowed to make cloth for rituals, only the men can do this.
Here are some photos of my favourite objects from the exhibition, apologies for the quality but they were taken on a phone in low lighting where flash was not permitted. They are much better seen by the eye! So do go and take a look.
(Objects belong to the British Museum)