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Göttingen Visit
25- 27 July 2011

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Cook collections: research breakthrough at the British Museum

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Research seminar: Digital Subjects, Cultural Objects

June 2010

Introductory talk for TATAU: Symmetry, Harmony and Beauty

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News

Fabricating Fashion?
Billie Lythberg, 1-2 October 2012

Participants in Patricia Te Arapo Wallace’s session, experimenting with the draping of textiles in the manner of Māori cloaks illustrated during the 1642 voyage of Abel Tasman.
Photo: Billie Lythberg

Experiments with Fijian masi cloth.
Photo: Billie Lythberg

Workshop Coordinator Rosanna Raymond with her ‘tapa jeans’.
Photo: Billie Lythberg

Members of the project team participated in the workshop Fabricating Fashion?, held at the Sainsbury Research Unit under the umbrella of the AHRC-funded Fijian Art Project. The two-day meeting brought together fashion designers, artists, academic researchers, museum conservators, curators and collection managers to experience textiles and other materials and to interrogate conceptions of Pacific attire and accessories from different perspectives.

Artefacts of Encounter Affiliated Researcher Patricia Te Arapo Wallace facilitated a particularly fascinating session that explored how early Maori cloaks might have been worn, based upon her research into early images drawn by Isaac Gilsemans in December 1642, during Tasman’s visit to New Zealand’s South Island. As we draped and tucked lengths of rough cloth we recreated ways of wearing long cloaks that offered new insights into what had previously been considered oversized cloaks or blankets in some collections.

A similar experiment looked at the draping, wrapping and layering of barkcloth as illustrated in early voyage accounts. Lengths of Fijian masi imported specially for the workshop were concertinaed and crimped, draped and tucked in reference to voyage journal accounts and historical photographs from the colonial period.

Workshop co-ordinator Rosanna Raymond discussed her art practice as it pertains to the recycling of materials into new forms, illustrating her talk with a pair of her ‘tapa jeans’. In the early 1990s Raymond customized a pair of denim jeans and matching jacket with Tongan barkcloth (ngatu) and wore the resulting Pacific suit out nightclubbing. The outfit was later exhibited as an art work and is immortalized in a photograph taken by Greg Semu called G’nang G’near (1993) used for the cover of Clothing the Pacific (2003), edited by Chloe Colchester.

Raymond sourced patches of ngatu from road-side rubbish collections in Auckland, hand-stitching them over the denim suit to give it a fresh identity as Pacific street fashion. Ngatu and other forms of barkcloth (known generically as tapa) are highly valued in Pacific cultures as exchange items. The juxtaposition of ngatu with denim highlighted the significance of work-gear as a new form of currency for Pacific peoples in urban Auckland in the 1990s.