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Cora-Allan Wickliffe creates tapa-inspired garments with Australian label Nancybird

Cora-Allan Wickliffe in her Karo Pintuck Dress - Tapa from Tiale Collection. Photo: Supplied
Cora-Allan Wickliffe in her Karo Pintuck Dress – Tapa from Tiale Collection. Photo: Supplied
Ann-Tauilo Motuga | Videographer

From bark-cloth to garments, Cora-Allan Wickliffe has shown us the versatility of the hiapo art form in her collaboration with Australian label Nancybird.

The result is their stunning Tiale Collection. Wickliffe named it after the Niuean flower tiale (pronounced siale), reflecting the floral nature of the designs.

The collaboration started early last year during New Zealand’s first level 4 lockdown. Nancybird asked Wickliffe if she was open to creating a hiapo-inspired artwork that could go on their garments.

“There were some designs they requested which I felt were too traditional, so I did not include them in the final drawings,” Wickliffe says.

“They were all good with that, and because they didn’t push for certain patterns and understood their sacredness, it made me feel very comfortable working with them.”

The Tiale Collection is Wickliffe’s first clothing collaboration. The Niuean artist challenged herself to create patterns that pay tribute to the hiapo practice but also maintain the sacredness of the art form.

Cora-Allan Wickliffe in her River Top - Tapa from Tiale Collection. Photo: Supplied
Cora-Allan Wickliffe in her River Top – Tapa from Tiale Collection. Photo: Supplied

“As an art form, traditional patterns reflect the island, and these particular designs for me definitely reflect 2021 in not just their shape and form but by how they are used,” she says.

“Having hiapo in colour and not just black and white has been so refreshing but also something I would never have done. So it is nice to give something else to others who are great at what they do.”

The collaboration with Nancybird has allowed Wickliffe to be open to clothing and textiles as another avenue of sharing hiapo to a wider community. However, she admits that without Nancybird’s invitation, she would not have thought of the idea.

“I have been asked many times to design clothing, but for me, I have a focus on my arts practice,” she says.

“To share about hiapo with others globally is important and also another stage to show off how beautiful the art form from Niue is.”

The Tiale Collection also includes socks, a silk scarf and an upcoming satchel. Photo: Nancybird
The Tiale Collection also includes socks, a silk scarf and an upcoming satchel. Photo: Nancybird

“If I was to make clothing again in any form, I would make sure the sizes were a lot larger, as I can just fit into the designs. I feel bad for others who can’t enjoy them. Next time, I will think about these things regarding collabs.”

With the islands closed due to Covid, Wickliffe is looking at alternative ways to create a sustainable practice.

“I gather my materials from the islands, so not being able to travel is hard, and finding other natural resources to make inks and hiapo has been a challenge,” she says.

Wickliffe says she has a handful of shows coming up that focus on the experience of hiapo, and plans to incorporate movement into her work.

“I hope my gallerists are open to some of my ideas,” she says.

“I feel like barkcloth is more than just a stagnant object, and I want to have a crack at making experiences more physical.”

To add to her repertoire, Wickliffe will be hosting hiapo workshops during Niuean Language Week next month, and as the first Niuean artist to receive a residency in the McCahon House Trust, she will be occupied in the upcoming three months concentrating on perfecting her craft.

Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

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