Dr Billie Lythberg discusses Tongan decorated barkcloths from the Hawkes Bay Museums Trust Collection. Free, no booking required.

Tongan decorated barkcloths, ngatu, are made by women working collectively to produce large-scale cloths from the inner bast of the paper mulberry tree, decorated with vegetal dyes and geometric and figurative motifs. The three examples on loan from the Hawkes Bay Museums Trust Collectionto the ‘Amui ‘i Mu'a – Ancient Futures exhibition feature gramophones, bicycles, and the crown of the late Queen Elizabeth II. The much beloved late Queen Sālote once said, “Our history is written, not in books, but in our mats.” Indeed, historical events and genealogical histories are commemorated in various Tongan textile koloa or valuables, including barkcloths. What do these examples tell us about Tongan history and the relationship between two Queens?

Dr Billie Lythberg was an investigator on the Ancient Futures research project funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, and co-creator of the Māori TV documentary series Artefact. She is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, where her foci include organisation studies and Pacific Research Methods.


  • Free - All Welcome


  • Sat 28 Oct


  • 11:00 am — 12:00 pm


  • 201 Eastbourne Street East
  • Hastings 4122