Laurence Rosen / Upper South Studio

Museum Kapa represents the diverse South Pacific Islands. The region's history and geography are identified in the indigenous patterns. more

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Growing up in Chicago, one of Laurence Rosen’s most beloved haunts was The Museum of Natural History—a fearfully vast, dank and dim curiosity cabinet full of the world’s ethnic arts and material culture. There, he discovered the people and their arts from the islands of the South Pacific.

Their various histories have in common richly decorated Kapa cloth, made from the inner bark of specific indigenous trees. Kapa was both utilitarian and ceremonial. The patterns were applied by free-hand or by block printing, stamping, or stenciling.

The designs were so characteristic and variable throughout Melanesia and Polynesia that traders could identify the source and origin of the cloth by the Kapa decoration. This first group of designs begins to encompass the region’s diversity while staying close to their native historic origins.