Wednesday, August 13

Web Wanderings # 2 - Tifaifai

I'd seen visuals of Hawaian quilts but I wasn't aware of the term Tifaifai. While perusing blogs this afternoon I came across the Pomegranate Tifaifai which Dijanne Cevaal is in the process of creating, this prompted me to wander the web in search of Tifaifai.
This is some of what I found.
A “tifaifai” (pronounced: tea-fae-fae) is the Tahitian version of a quilt and is an integral part of Polynesia's home and heritage. The tifaifai is similar to a quilt in that the patterns are appliquéd to a background fabric. Since the climate in Tahiti remains temperate year round, tifaifai are made from lightweight fabric (as opposed to heavy quilt designs) that is intricately appliquéd and hemmed around the edges.
The history of the tifaifai is not entirely clear, but its roots have been traced to the arrival of missionaries in the late 1700's. During that time, sailors from the Dutch East India Company allegedly wooed young Tahitian women with Scherenschnitte, a signature pattern made by folding paper in eighths, then diagonally to make a triangle. Next, certain areas of the triangle would be cut (or torn) to create a snowflake pattern when unfolded, and given to the young girl as a memento. It is believed that the snowflake pattern design now seen on Tahitian tifaifai was influenced by these early Dutch sailors' gifts. Tahitians began creating colorful tifaifai designs based on the snowflake design.
Tradition held that once a tifaifai pattern was used, that pattern was to either be destroyed or passed on to a family member. That family member could only use the design if he or she added a signature design to it and gave it a new name.Overtime, Tahitian tifaifai evolved and the designs became larger in physical size, yet the process of folding into eighths was abandoned for folding into fourths. (By contrast, Hawaiians still fold fabric into eights when making Hawaiian quilts.) This difference in design is key in determining the origin of a particular tifaifai.

Night Sky



Click here to view some beautiful Tifaifai.
I've been inspired to work with the tifaifai concept for the August TIF.Watch this space.


pRiyA said...

good heavens! what a fascinating story.

neki desu said...

thanks for the info and link.
looking forward to your august tif.
saw you made it to masala chai. congrats!

neki desu

Maya Sara Matthew said...

Can you imagine it only took little paper snowflakes to win someone's heart.But it is interesting to see how it evolved as a design idea.

Maya Sara Matthew said...

Hi Neki, thanks for stopping by. It was a pleasant surprise when I discovered I had been featured on Masala Chai.Must get started on the August TIF

Crayons said...

Good morning Embellisher,
These are just beautiful. I think I mentioned my fascination with ... well, any kind of embellishment. It's some strong urge in the human spirit to create beauty, even in utilitarian objects. Thanks for this post.

Maya Sara Matthew said...

You're welcome Caroline and its certainly true that the human spirit has a strong urge to create beauty and want to be surrounded by it.

Julie said...

I just learned about Tifaifai in an art history class. Before the missionaries brought cotton fabrics, the women made bark cloth. By stripping bark and beating it into thin fibers, that they then move into fabric. They used natural indigenous pigments, and also made designs using local floral motifs. There was much prestige with making the cloth and the items they made with it. So when the missionaries came, they thought the cotton and their dyes were much superior, and gave up on bark cloth, but carried over some of the traditional design motifs.

Julie Chen said...

I just learned about Tifaifai in an art history class. Before the missionaries, there was an indigenous practice of making bark cloth. The women ritually beat the bark into smaller fibers and wove cloth. They used natural pigments and made floral motifs. It was a revered practice, and the women received much prestige. When the missionaries brought cotton, the Polynesians thought the fabric and color was superior and dropped bark cloth making, but kept some of the floral motifs.

rix said...

Hey thanks for that story, Julie!
Right now I am into some research on the history of tifaifai and your story helps with a piece of the puzzle.

rix said...

Hey thanks for that story, Julie!
Right now I am into some research on the history of tifaifai and your story helps with a piece of the puzzle.