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Donated display explaining siapo making at UH

HONOLULU, Hawaii— In 2009 Hamilton Library received a donation of an original Samoan Siapo created by Mary Pritchard from Joan Griffis of Oregon. Siapo, often referred to as tapa, is a traditional mulberry bark cloth from Samoa.

Siapo has formal and functional uses from ceremonial gifts to bed covers. Though there are minor differences in the way each Pacific Island culture produces tapa, the general process is much the same: mulberry tree bark is stripped from branches, made into a large cloth, then decorated with traditional patterns using natural dyes. The symbols which are most commonly used in Samoan siapo are stylized representations of nature and everyday objects. Each of these elements are arranged in any and all combinations, making each siapo as unique as the artist.

 The siapo now resides in the Science & Technology Commons Area of Hamilton Library.

This year the Le Fetuao Samoan Language School of Honolulu donated a display explaining siapo, which now stands next to Mary Pritchard’s original. The display was made under the direction of Sauileoge "Sau" Ueligitone, a native of Tau, Manu'a, American Samoa and a friend of Mary Pritchard. He worked closely with her in the American Samoa Arts Council’s Cultural Preservation Programs. He is dedicated to perpetuating her work with younger generations, especially those who live outside of Samoa. In this effort, Sau volunteers at the Le Fetuao Samoan Language School and teaches both children and adults the art of siapo making.

At the age of 8, Sau described himself as an artist and has dedicated his life to the Arts since. He holds a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, with an emphasis on Graphic Design and Illustration. Samoan culture, history, legends, and physical environment are central features of Sau's art. Tapa (siapo) and tattoo motifs are featured in most of his recent work. The basic designs depict the Samoan way of life and include: fishing, farming, and dwellings. Some motifs show things that endanger life, i.e. centipedes and spearheads.

 Sau has worked as an art instructor in American Samoa’s public and private schools. He served as American Samoa Artist-in-Residence, Coordinator of Folk Arts for the American Samoa Museum and as Arts Council Member. Sau conducted art workshops for University of the South Pacific Extension campus in the Cook Islands and, multiple projects for the South Pacific Commission, a 27-nation regional organization, based in New Caledonia.

 Upcoming Summer Exhibits include: Hawaiian FernsJust Paddle!and Indian Comics ~ Legends in Print

Source: UH Hailton Library media release