Cora-Allan Wickliffe: Niue artist who’s revived the art of hiapo from extinction
It’s the silk of the Pacific – tapa, kapa, gatu or siapo can be found across most cultures in Oceania, but on the island of Niue, the art of barkcloth-making, or hiapo, has all but disappeared. Except for now. Moana Makapelu Lee caught up with Niue Māori artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe, who has revived the practice and is now making it her mission to share and teach her people again.
An ancient art form, hiapo was used to adorn the body in traditional ceremonies as well as to wrap bodies of deceased kings.
“My grandparents had just mentioned off the cuff that they would love that as something to wrap their bodies in when they passed away, and as soon as my grandfather said that, it really kind of resonated with me, and I was like, ‘Yup, okay, I’ll make it.'”
Rediscovering hiapo has been a five-year journey for Wickliffe, from an initial trip to Niue to learning with the help of her grandmother, other Pacific practitioners and what is left in museums.
“It was nice being able to research in those places but for me it was a little sad. I couldn’t go into someone’s home and watch them open this cupboard, pull out this giant big cloth, because you see people do that with ngatu, with siapo, but no one was doing it with hiapo. So for me, it reminded me of where I want my work to be in the future.”
Wickliffe’s dedication has meant the reintroduction of hiapo into family traditions again, and her work has been exhibited in art exhibitions in New Zealand and Canada.
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