Jean Mason & The Lost Art of Tapa Making


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My name is Jean Tekura Mason. I was born in the Cook Islands of a Mauke/Atiu mother, Akekaro, and British father, Richard. I was educated in the Cook Islands and New Zealand. I have been curator and manager of the Cook Islands Library and Museum Society at Rarotonga since 2007. I am passionate about Cook Islands culture and have written on Cook Islands women in politics, the anti-nuclear stance of the Cook Islands, Cook Islands dance, weaving, tapa, and tattoo. I was an intern at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, July, 2013 as part of the Wilkes Tapa Project: conservation of tapa cloth. My most recent publication “The tutunga is silent now: the lost art of tapa making in the Cook Islands” appeared in TAPA - De L'Écorce À L'Étoffe, Art Millénaire D'Océanie / From Tree Bark to Cloth, An Ancient Art of Oceania, Somogy éditions d'Art, Paris, France, ed. Michel Charleux, 2017.

My main interests continue to be anything to do with Cook Islands culture but I have a special interest in tapa (barkcloth), which is a dying art in the Cook Islands. My other interests are poetry, art, photography and planting, and increasingly, as I get older and see the environmental devastation taking place upon my home island for this thing called “progress”, I want to get “back to basics” living, practice more recycling and learn more about environmental preservation. Please enjoy my interview.

Meitaki nui rava. Kia ora ana.