Informal Economy

Tonga’s first ever tapa trade show to commence in August

The newly-formed Tonga National Tapa-making Workers' Association [TNTWA] plans to inaugurate the association with the country’s first-ever Tapa Trade Show. Organized in partnership with the Tonga Public Service Association, TNTWA was formed through the support of the UN’s Informal Economies Recovery Project. The trade show is expected to be the first of an annual quarterly calendar, aimed at boosting members’ income flow.

News | 22 July 2021
Tongan tapa
Tapa cloth is a bark-cloth made from the paper mulberry tree, in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, primarily in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, but as far afield as Niue, Cook Islands, Futuna, Solomon Islands, Java, New Zealand, Vanuatu Papua New Guinea and Hawaii [where it is called Kapa]. In Tonga, the cloth is also referred to as ngatu and can be decorated by rubbing, stamping, stencilling, smoking or dyeing.

The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometric patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colours are known.

Today, tapa is often worn on formal occasions such as weddings, special birthdays and funerals. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often found hung on walls as decoration.

The TNTWA currently has 504 registered members, all of whom will play a part in the highly-anticipated trade show.

“The TNTWA aims to have 1,000 members by the end of 2021,” said Mele T. 'Amanaki, Secretary General of Tonga’s Public Service Association. “We hope this event will hopefully attract more members. We have reached out to around 25 villages in the main island of Tongatapu only. There are around 50 villages in Tongatapu. We hope to reach out to 30 villages before the inauguration. We will continue on to the outer islands early next year, if funding permits.”

The historic event is expected to attract large numbers of people, and will even have a virtual platform, where Tongan diaspora around the world and neighboring Pacific countries will be able to shop the products online.

The confirmed attendance of Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau'u Tuku ‘aho has sent a wave of excitement through the community, who see the Queen’s presence as a very concrete show of support for informal sector workers, thereby elevating their social standing in society.
Note similar events will be organized for the inauguration of several other UN Project-supported associations, as follows:

13th August - Tonga National Weaving Workers' Association
20th August - Tonga National Trading Workers' Association
27th August - Tonga National Agricultural Workers' Association
04th September - Tonga National Animal-husbandry Workers' Association
10th September - Tonga National Fisheries Workers' Association
17th September - Tonga National Handicrafts & Tourism Workers' Association