kapa kulture

This blog is dedicated to Hawaiian kapa and matters related to Hawai'i nei…kuku kapa e!

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Bark Cloth of the Cook Islands

Cook Islands Tiput

Cook Islands Tiputa

Tapa is the name used for bark cloth in the Cook Islands. In the northern Cook Islands the paper mulberry did not grow well. But it did grow in the southern Cook Islands and was made into tapa there. As in other Polynesian islands, the breadfruit tree bark and banyan bark were also used to make tapa. In the southern Cooks tapa was felted into a single layer, with no sign of joining.

Decorating the finished tapa was done with freehand painting, immersion in dye baths, or it was cut with designs in a patterned motif. The rubbing method using design tablets was not used in the Cook Islands. Diamond motifs, which were “associated with the sacred world of the gods,” were applied on masks using the freehand painting method. Masks were made and decorated in Mangaia and Rarotonga and they were used in pageants called eva, to remember gods and cultural heroes. These ceremonies also were performed in association with mourning.

Tiputa was worn as clothing in the Cook Islands, in the Tahitian style that is believed to have been the result of the strong missionary influence. The tiputa was fashioned as a long piece of tapa that had a hole cut into the middle to be worn on the body like a poncho. Pants were made too. Articles of clothing were cut at the edges in fringes and cuts were made throughout the article in repetitive patterns, as in Futuna.

In the Cook Islands, as elsewhere in Polynesia, making bark cloth was done by women. However, a special, heavier, white cloth called tikoru was made by men. This was a special ceremonial bark cloth that was used to wrap around god images and was the attire of priests and high chiefs. This use may reflect the connection to spiritual beliefs that the chief and priests are descendant from the gods themselves.

(Neich & Pendergrast, Pacific Tapa, 1997).

The Book of Tapa Samples Collected by Captain James Cook and Assembled by Alexander Shaw

18th century Hawaiian Kapa

18th century Hawaiian Kapa

click on this link to learn more about this topic

What’s Going on with Kīlauea?

Pacific Island National Parks

What’s going on with Kīlauea, you ask? Kīlauea continues to erupt from 2 locations. Within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, at Halema‘uma‘u, the lava lake is about 150 feet deep within the crater (give or take) and the best viewing of this eruption is from the Jaggar Museum observation deck, open 24 hours a day. Go after dark or before dawn for the best eruption viewing, and the most amazing “glow show” in the park!

Out in Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone, Pu’u ‘Ō’ō continues to erupt, but there are currently no flows entering the ocean or pooling up on the coastal plain. According to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, active breakouts in the Kahauale’a 2 area are scattered over a broad area within the state’s Natural Area Reserve, extremely hazardous and closed to the public. In this aerial photo of the Kahauale’a 2 eruption, a breakout near the edge of…

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Bark Cloth of Uvea (Wallis Island) and Futuna Island

Wallis and Futuna

Wallis and Futuna

In Uvea, the people speak a language closely related to Tonga, the term for bark cloth in the island of Uvea is ngatu. Paper mulberry, hiapo, is cultivated on the east coast where rainfall is heavy. Double layers of ngatu are beaten out and pasted together and are designed using freehand designs or kupesi-imprinted methods. If the kupesi pattern block is used, it is made form the midrib of leaf sewn to wads of leaf as in Tonga, and this is the traditional style for Uvea to make designs on the cloth.

Contemporary kupesi are carved in wood. Freehand painting is also done. The design motifs have changed over time from simple, repetitious patterns to modern designs that show a slice of life such as drinking kava, dancing, climbing trees, and fishing. Uses of ngatu include bed covers and screens, and clothing. There are two types of wrap-around skirts that are distinct in Uvea. One called a lafi that is decorated using the kupesi and then over-painted with black dye. The second is called a tohihina, which is decorated completely with freehand design using a pen in black dye on white ngatu cloth.

Ngatu of Uvea

Ngatu of Uvea

As in Samoa, the general term used for tapa in Futuna is siapo. The name for the paper mulberry plant is lafi. Siapo is the term used when large pieces of the cloth are made by groups of women. A salatasi identifies a smaller sheet made by a single individual that is made into a waist wrap to be worn.

The bottom of an old canoe is carved for use as a design tablet, in the style of Tonga. Designs are also applied using bamboo pens or pens made from coconut midrib. The pens are used to draw very intricate patterned designs. Ruled grids are also drawn to create squared-off areas for a variety of patterns within one piece of cloth. As a finishing touch, sometimes the edges of an article are cut into fringes.

Siapo of Futuna Island

Siapo of Futuna Island

Today, costumes for dance consist of a tepi skirt, a lafi sash worn over one shoulder, and a white turban wrap for the head. Borders on tepi skirts are sometimes created by using freehand painting with a brush and fine lines applied with a pen.

"Dancers from Futuna at the 1996 Festival of Pacific Arts, Apia Western Samoa.  The dress of these dancers consists entirely of newly made tapa, from the white turban to the lafe bandolier and the tepi skirt (p.64, Pacific Tapa, R. Neich & M. Pendergrast).

“Dancers from Futuna at the 1996 Festival of Pacific Arts, Apia Western Samoa. The dress of these dancers consists entirely of newly made tapa, from the white turban to the lafe bandolier and the tepi skirt (p.64, Pacific Tapa, R. Neich & M. Pendergrast).

Clinging for Life in Hawaii’s Streams

Pacific Island National Parks

Learn more.

And this is how we keep track of them.


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Groundwater – The Movie

Archaeology Meets Modern Art



Beware This Is A Modern Art Meets Archaeology Mash Up Post.

Text reports on presentations at a conference session with interspersed images found on streets of Pilsen & Prague, Czech Republic.

DoveArchaeology met modern art in a conference session ‘Archaeology meets modern art: artists’ approaches to prehistoric data‘ at the recent EAA in Pilsen.

Theatrum MundiThe presentations included Dragos Gheorghiu’s work on Artchaeology.  He presented examples of work in Romania which combined artistic modes of practice, reconstruction and experimental archaeology, and creation of digital environments which are blended to generate an augmented reality: ‘immersive transport to the past’.  One such example was the reconstruction at Vadastra of a fragment of the workshop of a Roman villa rustica and associated ceramic kiln, glass kiln and iron furnace.  

Flea StencilArtist Sebastian Walter explained the approach to the development of the Schoeppingen time-machine for the Schoppingen Art Foundation, Germany. …

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Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Aotearoa~New Zealand~

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Aotearoa, New Zealand has an incredible collection of Pacific tapa on exhibit. The exhibition is on for 2 more days on site. Check out their awesome online tapa gallery by clicking on the link below!

tapa gallery

Info about the onsite exhibit here:

Tapa Exhibit, “Paperskin”
Te Papa

Hoʻowehi i ke kapa

Today I am experimenting with various dyes and creating colors that will be used to dye the kapa I have made. I will hoʻawa, extract dye colors from plants, to make ka waihoʻoluʻu, the dye, using ʻōlena for yellow, ʻukiʻuki for blue… overlapped they might make green… we shall see…will post photos later…

The botanical names for these dye plants are:


ʻōlena ~ Curcuma longa

ʻōlena plant

ʻōlena plant

ʻukiʻuki ~ Dianella Sandwicensis

ʻukiʻuki ~ Dianella sandwicensis


Hawaiian Word of the Day: pōpoki

pōpoki: Cat (said by some to be derived from English “poor pussy”). Pōpoki kī, a spitting cat [spiteful, malignant person]. Pōpoki lehu, Maltese cat; lit., ash cat. Pōpoki nāwaliwali, weak cat [a weakling]. Pōpoki peʻelua, gray cat with darker markings, as a tabby cat; lit., caterpillar cat.

ko'u pōpoki, my cat

ko’u pōpoki, my cat

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