My involvement with kapa was originally conceived to understand how cultural losses affect identity. The concept has grown into wondering how cultural losses could be restored. Like data embedded in memory on a computer hard drive, facts are retrieved and displayed to inform about that which was once hidden. On a larger scale, I wonder, can communities come together as individuals, and gather their memories to reconstruct parts of culture that was lost? Browse archives and artifacts so they can piece together their collective past to reconstruct and revive a culture?
Kapa is one of the most recognized symbols of Hawai’i. It is so much more than an ancient relic and a treasure from the past. As I delve into my own kapa practice, including the associated tools and implements, it is giving me a chance to go deeper into the ingenuity of this ancient work. The legacy of kapa designs and connections to Polynesian migrations and history are gifts of knowledge for contemporary kapa makers in Hawai’i.
Hawaiian kapa has a reputation throughout Polynesia as the finest in the region. With a lack of practitioners for more than a century, it was nearly forgotten in extinction…lying behind glass cases in museums around the world like a dead iconic symbol…a metaphor for the cultural losses in Hawaiian experience spanning more than a hundred years. Today, kapa is being revived as tangible evidence of my heritage and it lives! It connects me to the roots of my kupuna – my ancestors – as I represent them in this modern world…