Tongan Tapa artist’s canvas on show at Path to NZ Market

A new Tongan tapa cloth technique created by artist Tevita Pola’apau will be showcased during Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand’s Path to Market programme in Auckland next month.

Courtesy: Tevita Pola’apau

Mr Pola’apau and his wife Vaiuku are the owners of Pola’apau Art based in Tonga.

The company will be part of the PTI New Zealand Path to Market programme in Auckland from 5-9 April 2019.  Mrs Pola’apau will be travelling to Auckland to attend the programme and attend the showcase one-day event named Path to the Pacific Trade Show at The Cloud on Auckland’s Waterfront on Saturday April 6.

Traditional tapa cloth is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, beaten by hand for many hours into thin sheets and layered to form tapa cloth.

A few years ago, Mr Pola’apau invented a new technique he called ‘Opo’opo. The word ‘Opo’opo comes from the process of the tapa making. It involves joining two pieces of soft feta’aki (bark of paper mulberry tree) to make it longer or wider.

Mrs Pola’apau created the tapa that is used as the canvas for Mr Pola’apau’s art work. All their art work is made of tapa cloth.

Artist Tevita Pola’apau

Born in 1958 on the island of Kotu, Mr Pola’apau found his love for art at primary school. He developed his talent further at Liahona High School. Today he lives in Kolomatu’a on the island of Tongatapu. In his blog, Mr Pola’apau, says he has spent his life as a school teacher. In 2013, he quit his teaching job to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time artist.  He wishes he had done it sooner.

Since retiring as a High School teacher at Liahona High School he has immersed himself in art, his passion. Displaying his unique style — from village vistas to creative patterns, animals and social commentary on waste and pollution. He incorporates multiple aspects of Tongan culture to represent life in Tonga.

“I believe that I have a responsibility in helping to preserve our culture and customs and our arts. We are trying to use local materials that we find in our surroundings,” he said.

He produces a range of products from bookmarks, post cards, wall hangings, nativity sets and neckties.

Mr Pola’apau attended the PTI NZ Path to Market programme in Tonga last year. The programme is a structured, multi-step approach that assists Pacific exporters or potential exporters better understand the New Zealand market. The first step is an in-country workshop where businesses are identified to move on to the next step, which is to attend a trade show in Auckland, display their wares and find distributors and buyers.

“The Path to Market workshop has really helped me to start thinking of seeking connections with New Zealand for the promotion of my products and identify opportunities for export,” Mr Pola’apau said.

As a result of the visit he hopes to have an exhibition in an Auckland art gallery. Visit for more information on Polaapau Art.

For more information email Ian Furlong, PTI NZ Trade Development Manager on

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