Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows and Tui Emma Gillies are a Tongan New Zealand mother-and-daughter team that make tapa cloth and are scholars of the art. The duo’s art manifests their shared passion and close relationship in a hybrid style harmonizing traditional tapa with contemporary elements. Apart from adding colour pigment onto designs that are customarily black and brown, their work also integrates themes that deviate from the standard of geometric grids and floral motifs, often featuring themes of femininity, nurturing, protection, and spirituality. Burrows and Gillies strive to utilize as many natural resources as they can in tandem with modern materials. Tapa cloth itself is entirely decomposable, and the glue they use to paste each piece together is mixed with tapioca starch, half-cooked until the texture’s right. Their main modern adaptations in creating tapa art include Indian ink and acrylic paint.
The mother-daughter duo have presented, exhibited, and sold their art to museums and private collections around the world and were the recipients of the 2018 Creative New Zealand Heritage Arts Award. They have works in collections around the world including The National Maritime Museum, Auckland War Memorial Museum, GRASSI museum in Germany, National Gallery of Victory in Melbourne and Pick Museum of Anthropology in Illinois, USA.