Samoan Siapo Bark Cloth

Samoan Siapo Bark Cloth lesson plan

Create your own version of beautiful Somoan Siapo bark cloth using a brown paper bag. Use your knowledge of geometry, too!

  • 1.

    Samoa is part of Oceania, an area of about 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean off of Australia. Samoans are known for art called Siapo. Bark from a mulberry tree is pounded into very thin sheets and dried in the sun. Artists mix plant dyes and other natural materials to paint stylized designs, primarily geometric shapes, on the cloth.

  • 2.

    Today Samoans still make versions of this traditional art form. This cloth is worn special occasions. Similar fabrics are found in Ghana and Nigeria. In Hawaii, this art cloth is known as Tapa cloth. Find out more about these cultures and their decorative textiles.

  • 3.

    To make a replica of Siapo bark cloth, tear a large section of a brown paper bag so the edges are a bit ruffled. Crumple the paper tightly, unfold, and flatten it. Repeat several times so the paper is very pliable, much like fabric.

  • 4.

    Cover your painting area with newspaper. Most Siapo fabrics have black lines that divide the area into several smaller ones. You can think of percentages or dividing areas into halves, quarters, or thirds. Mark your divisions with lines of Crayola Tempera Paint.

  • 5.

    Inside each of these areas, use other colors to paint geometric shapes. Dab the brush to get paint inside the paper cracks. Mix Crayola Texture It! Tempera Mixing Medium with some of the paint colors. Or brush it on top of painted areas—even over the enti

  • 6.

    You can paint smaller shapes on top of larger ones after the paint is slightly dry. Leave some of the bag showing through. Add lines, dots, or any design to make your fabric style unique. Air-dry completely before you display your work.


  • Students research designs of traditional Samoan Siapo bark cloth and identify the fabric’s features.
  • Students reproduce traditional Samoan designs on a torn brown paper bag.
  • Students solve the division and decoration of the area of their individual art project, recalling concepts in math and geometry.


  • Create several of these paintings. Lace them together to create wearable clothing or accessories such as a vest or bag.
  • Display all projects together with background information and visual examples of traditional Somoan art.
  • Assessment: Students will be successful if they follow the process to make a paper bag look as much like Siapo as possible. Their designs are unique, include geometric shapes, and incorporate texture.