The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum


Masi (or tapa) is a non-woven cloth produced by beating the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree to form a compacted web of fibers. Similar barkcloths are found throughout the world including the Americas, South-East Asia, Africa and across the Pacific region. Fijian masi has a very distinctive style, with heavy patterning in brown and black and has been an integral part of life in Fiji for a very long time.

Masi was used for many purposes, from the everyday, such as clothing and wall hangings, through to the ceremonial and religious, such as for the installation of chiefs. Masi was used in meke (dance) as costumes and props, forming an important part of dance ceremonies; chiefs would make their battle flags out of it and masi was used to wrap and store valuable items for safe-keeping. Chiefs wore special masi and on ceremonial occasions could wear massive amounts of barkcloth. Masi was also used in medicine, either to carry the medicine or for its own power of cleanliness and healing. Inside the house, masi acted as decoration, served as a dividing screen, while very thin masi would be used as mosquito nets. Masi was the primary form of clothing for men and was wrapped around the body in a variety of ways.