"Maisin is tapa": engendering barkcloth among the Maisin of Papua New Guinea

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This paper explores the interplay between gender and barkcloth, or tapa, among the Maisin people living along the shores of Collingwood Bay in Papua New Guinea. Tapa features in Maisin economic, political, social, and spiritual life as an object of wealth that is both alienable and inalienable. It constitutes beliefs and values about gender relations and identity, mediating relations between the individual and the social. At the same time, tapa connects the living with the ancestors, God, and the church. In short, tapa is intertwined with all aspects of Maisin life. While in earlier publications I have detailed the gendered manufacturing and use of tapa in various settings, in this paper I bring this work together, highlighting how barkcloth is not just a gendered object, but crucial in creating gendered embodiments and performances, and, as such, experiences of gender identity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)4-23
Number of pages20
JournalPacific Arts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • tapa
  • barkcloth
  • Maisin
  • Papua New Guinea
  • textiles
  • gender


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