kapa kulture

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

Archive for the tag “cultural arts”

Hawaiian Word of the Day: ʻumeke

ʻumeke: Bowl, calabash, circular vessel, as of wood or gourd. ʻUmeke kāʻeo, a well-filled calabash [a well-filled mind]. ʻUmeke pala ʻole, calabash without a dab [empty bowl, empty mind]. hoʻo.ʻumeke, hōʻumeke. To assume the shape of a bowl; to assume the shape of fruit, to bear fruit. Fig., to have enough to eat. E pua ana ka ʻōhiʻa ʻai a hōʻumeke i ka malama o Hinaiaʻeleʻele, the mountain apple blooms and fruits form in the month of Hinaiaʻeleʻele.

ipu umeke

ʻumeke ʻai: Poi bowl. Fig., source of food, of the uplands.
ʻumeke ipu kai: Bowl, as for serving meat or salty meat.
ʻumeke kepekepe: Bowl with horizontal flat panels. Lit., wedged bowl.
ʻumeke lāʻau: Wooden bowl.
ʻumeke mānaʻai: Very small bowl, as formerly used for poi by favorite children. Lit., poi mouth-fed bowl.
ʻumeke ʻōpaka: Bowl with vertical panels with vertical edges between them.
ʻumeke palapaʻa: Thick-bottomed wooden calabash. Lit., firm-dabbed bowl, perhaps so called because dabs of poi are held firm in this type of calabash that does not upset.
ʻumeke pāwehe: A decorated gourd bowl, as made on Niʻihau.
ʻumeke pōhue: Gourd calabash.

ipu-umeke

Photo found on the Kaʻahele Hawaiʻi Website. Click below to access more information on Hawaiian ipu and more resources for Hawaiian culture and arts.

Na Ipu O Hawaiʻi

Happenings @ the Kauaʻi Museum

I had the chance to do several demonstrations at the Kauaʻi Museum in April and May. It was interesting to get out in public and showcase the methods and processes of Hawaiian Kapa. My audiences were interested and asked many questions about involvement of youth, natural dyes, longevity of kapa cloth, relationships to other cultures, and more… There were some good discussions that got going. I used the opportunity to survey my audiences to understand better about the impressions kapa had on them. One surprising fact? 95% of people surveyed had no knowledge that Hawaiʻi was annexed to the United States in an illegal coup. Now that surprised me because if Hawaiʻi is indeed part of the U.S. it seems to me that U.S. History curriculum should include the story of the Hawaiian Kingdom in it’s course of study. Just saying…

Museum Poster for my Kapa Revival Project

Museum Poster for my Kapa Revival Project

The Kauaʻi Museum Website

Hawaiian Kapa

Relationships between Polynesian island groups are evident in the technology of bark cloth fabrication and design methods. But there are also connections to more esoteric beliefs. One such connection between Hawaiʻi and Tahiti is found in the word hiapo. According to Mary Pukui in her book, “The Polynesian Family System in Kaʻu Hawaiʻi” (1999), the significance of the bark cloth hiapo is related to a special term applying to first born children. Mrs. Pukui suggests that the Hawaiian use of this word reflects the origins of Hawaiian aliʻi coming from Tahiti in ancient days. Hiapo in the Marquesas and Tahiti refers to the cloth which covers the first born child of high rank. Hiapo is used in Hawaiian language to describe a child’s relationship in the family ie., “kuʻu hiapo” which means, my first-born applied to male or female children of rank, or ko makou hiapo, first-born of our family” (Handy & Pukui, pp.46-47, 1999).

In Hawaiʻi, the generic Polynesian term, tapa is called kapa. It is most refined in Hawaiʻi and is recognized as “a variety unsurpassed by any other culture of the Pacific” (Pacific Tapa, p. 91, 1997). The paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), called wauke, in Hawaiian, was grown in abundance in the old days for kapa production. It was used mainly for blankets and clothing. Women dressed in the pāʻū skirt. Men wore the loincloth malo, which was folded to show designs on both sides. A kihei was a cape worn by both men and women. The kihei was useful for cold weather but it was also a garment used particularly during ceremonies.

Ways That Hawaiians Used Kapa Cloth

Priests wore white kapa at ceremonial times. The kapa used in the heiau (place of religious worship), was pure white, undyed, and undecorated (Ancient Hawaiian Civilization, A Lecture Series from Kamehameha Schools, 1979). Religious function included wrapping god images in fine white kapa, and covering heiau towers which were treated as places for the gods to enter.

Bed coverings were made that consisted of five separate sheets sewn together, two and a half, to three yards long, squared. Soiled blankets and clothing were washed carefully, pounded again and reassembled. Uses were determined by different grades or quality of thickness:

Thick, firm pieces for the sleeping houses, which were sewn into layers for added warmth

Delicate lacy and silken pieces for wrapping newborn aliʻi

Oiled kapa, saturated with kukui nut oil or coconut oil for waterproofing and strengthening. This was used to make clothing for fishermen, feather-gatherers and bird-catchers, and covers for canoes

Coarse kapa was used for covering the walls of the anuʻu or oracle’s tower in a heiau. Sometimes this was used to cover the food to be cooked in the imu (oven), before the earth layer was added.

Small twisted pieces were used as wicks in kukui nut lamps

Pieces were tied on trees and along pathways as kapu (sacred) signs and signal flags

Pieces were braided into sandals

Pieces were made into bandages and used for menstruation

Black or brown pieces were used as burial sheets

It was made into kites used as fishing aids as well as for recreation

Pieces were tied into balls at the top of puoʻuloʻu, or kapu sticks, only white was used for this purpose

During certain seasons white and red pieces were used to dress the gods. White was used more often because colors would weather, and white could be seen easily as a landmark from a distance by canoes

Kapa was very special and valued as an important item for trade and gifts. It was a sign of wealth and social status.

Kapa Tools and Processes

Ka Pa means “the beaten”. Trees other than wauke were also used to make kapa. For instance, the ʻulu, breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis), and the mamaki (Pipturus albidus) from the nettle family, maʻaloa, hibiscus hau, and olonā plants. Wauke was most valued and cultivated for kapa. Men and women prepared the bark. Men harvested the trees and women peeled off the bark and soaked it until soft. Women produced the majority of kapa cloth, but special hamoʻula or ribbed kapa was made by men.

Tools that were used to make kapa were the koʻi or stone adze that was used to cut the plants. A scraper made of the bony plate of a turtle, or a sharp shell such as from the ʻopihi. A stone knife, or a shark’s tooth lashed onto a wooden handle was used to split the bark, and peel it off the plant. Scrapers were used to scrape off the brown and green outer parts of the bark before beating began. After soaking the inner bark in a fresh water, a smooth stone (pohaku) was used as the anvil, or kua kuku, for the first beating. This step with the stone anvil is seen nowhere else in Polynesia. A hard wood kua kapa lāʻau anvil six to eight feet long and about six inches wide was used for the subsequent beating, until the final product is reached. The preliminary beater, hohoa, was made of a heavy hardwood measuring about a foot long and 2 or 3 inches in diameter, with a tapered handle. Another carved hardwood beater, or iʻe kuku, has four equal sides with each side having lined, grooved surfaces. One or more of the surfaces may have a particular design which imprints on the kapa similar to a watermark on fine bond paper. Other tools were a grooved board and “groover”, tool cleaners, calabashes for water and starches, and “needles” for stitching (Kawai Aonaeoka, Personal Interview, 2005).

Decoration and Dyes

Most women made kapa, but the decorations were done by women of high rank. Kapa design application took pieces that were stained already and printed colorful motifs with delicate tools of wood and bamboo that were used especially for this work.

Various dyes were made from leaves, bark, berries, and roots of native plants and colored earth. Fixatives or mordants such as seawater, urine, oil, and burned coral lime were also used to increase the color fastness of the dyes. Many colors in red, yellow, black, brown, orange, and blue were produced by boiling, infusion, and charring (Life in the Pacific of the 1700s, 2006). Some examples are the charred kukui nut which produced a black dye, the inner bark of kukui made a rich, reddish brown, tumeric root (ʻōlena) gave yellow, noni root gave red, and a silvery-green was extracted from the blossoms of the maʻo, Hawaiian cotton. There were at least fifteen different names for the different colors and qualities they produced (Ancient Hawaiian Civilization, a lecture series from Kamehameha Schools, Revised Edition, p. 141, 1979).

Dye was applied in several ways. By immersion baths, ruling with liners made of bamboo, some with tines like a fork; printing with stamps called ʻohe kāpala, made from strips of bamboo; painting with brushes made from hala keys; and using a cord dipped in dye, stretching the cord across a piece of kapa and then snapping the cord to leave the cord’s mark on the kapa (Kawai Aonaeoka, Personal Interview, 2005).

Freehand painting, which occurs in other parts of Polynesia, was not used much in Hawaiʻi. Hawaiian designs were both applied and impressed. Impressed designs were made during the final beating using the textured beaters for the watermark effect. Applied designs were applied to the upper surface of the kapa by brushing with color using the hala brush, and stamping designs with the ʻohe kāpala.

Kapa was often scented by fragrant plants laid in between folds. Maile, mokihana berries, and pieces of ʻiliahi (sandalwood) were used for this purpose.

As was commonly the case through out Polynesia, mats and kapa were signs of high chiefly status. The finest kapa were found in the dwellings of the aliʻi class, and coarser mats and kapa were used by the general population, or makaʻāinana.

Bark cloth is a very unique symbol of the South Pacific people. Until today, even thought he cloth is not used for everyday purposes such as clothing any more, the designs and style continue to be popular. We can often see kapa motifs on all kinds of products, including fabric.

Kapa moe, bed covering, on display at the Honolulu Academy of Art

Kapa moe, bed covering, on display at the Honolulu Academy of Art

kapa Lole lole o kapa na Leilehua Yuen

Tapa in Tahiti ~ A Close Cousin to Hawaiian Kapa

ʻAhu is what Tahitians a Society Islanders call bark cloth and clothing. The inner bark of the breadfruit, hibiscus, and ficus were used as well as the paper mulberry tree, called aute. Large amounts of aute were cultivated for the ariʻi noble class. Commoners had to use the stiffer breadfruit variety. The inner bark of these various trees were beaten in the same manner, with the wooden club, tupai on the beating anvil, tutua. The fibers were beaten until the fibers became stretched and interwoven using the felting technique of layering.

Large amounts of ʻahu was owned by nobles as a sign of their rank and prestige. It hung on house posts; it was stacked up somewhere in the home to be brought out to visitors in a sign of wealth and pride. Bundles of white ʻahu were hung above the house, pieces up to 590 feet in length were suspended from the roof in chief’s houses! Bundles were also kept in the houses as dedications to the gods, with the god images (Pacific Tapa, 1997).

ʻAhu had many uses and importance here as in the rest of Polynesia. It was used for clothing, funerary wrapping, and bedding. ʻAhu functioned as a gift in marriage, for declarations of peace, and burial objects (Life in the Pacific of the 1700s, 2006).

Layers of soft ʻahu were used for the clothes of ariʻi class nobles and chiefs. Common people wore ʻahu made of bark from breadfruit trees (Artocarpus altilis). Women’s clothing was a skirt called a pareu. Men wore a loincloth called a maro. An ahufara was worn by women as a shawl around the shoulders. The tiputa poncho was worn by all people. There was a different tiputa worn in different types of weather. It could be made of several layers of thick ʻahu from the bark of the Hibiscus tiliaceus. Or a single layer tiputa was worn in dry weather. Multi layered tiputa was worn at night or in cooler weather. High ranking people wore tiputa colored with red, yellow, or brown dye with an applique of red feathers. Colored ʻahu was reserved for people of rank, and only the very highest ranking nobles were permitted to wear red or yellow colored ʻahu (Life in the Pacific of the 1700s, 2006).

Production of dye was women’s work. Brown dye was obtained from the bark of the tiari or tutui trees (Aleurites trilobia). The bark was scraped or pounded and steeped until the strength of the color was achieved. The Aleurites bark has gummy substances and so strengthened the ʻahu cloth and made it more durable. The juice of the Nono shrub (Morinda citrifolia) and tumeric provided yellow dye. ʻAhu was dyed in immersion dye baths or left plain white (Life in the Pacific of 1700s, 2006; Pacific Tapa, 1997).

Fine lines in a single-layered ʻahu were imprinted using a bark cloth beater, called a tupai. In the society Islands red patterns would be made with bamboo stamps dipped in dye and applied. Figures were also drawn freehand (Life in the Pacific of 1700s, 2006). Brushes were used to draw freehand and were made from a grass known as mo’u.

Tahitian decorative motifs since contact with Westerners are recorded to be leaves and fern fronds dipped in dye and pressed to cloth in a pattern. Sometimes pieces of one color were pasted on the surface of another to create an interesting effect.

The art of beating the ʻAhu is not widely practiced today and was almost extinct. Since a revival of traditional skills and knowledge, interest in this cultural art form is stirring (Pacific Tapa, 1997).

Tahitian Design

Tahitian Design

Marquesas Design

Marquesas Design

Long Live Kapa! E Ola Mau Ke Kapa!

On Kapa the World
by Anuhea Yagi
June 09, 2011 | 12:15 PM

Two years ago, the following press release was written to announce an event commemorating the annual holiday for King Kamehameha I. The event was held at the Bailey House Museum on Maui…

“Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau wrote in 1870, that “all are dead who knew how to make the coverings… that made the wearers look dignified and proud and distinguished.” But the art of Hawaiian kapa-making (i.e. a painstakingly rendered traditional fabric made from the bast fibers of, often, paper mulberry called wauke) was revived some 100 years later—and in 1987, cultural practitioners Wesley Sen, Hokulani Holt and Pua Van Dorpe held kapa-making workshops at the Bailey House Museum.

Returning to the roots of this revitalization—and in honor of Kamehameha Day—Holt and Sen, with the Maui Historical Society and Bailey House Museum, present Hina & Maui: The Story of Hawaiian Tapa Making (Ka Mo’olelo no ke Kapa o Hawai’i Nei) this Friday. Holt has written original hula and chant that tells the legend of Hina and Maui, while Sen has fashioned one-of-a-kind costumes made of traditional kapa for the performers. In addition to the performance, antique kapa from the museum’s collection will be exhibited, plus a presentation on kapa-making by Sen.”

(Pictured: Hawaiian kapa, 18th century, Cook-Foster Collection at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany)

(Pictured: Hawaiian kapa, 18th century, Cook-Foster Collection at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany)

Hawaiian Word of the Day: kaona

kaona: Hidden meaning, as in Hawaiian poetry; concealed reference, as to a person, thing, or place; words with double meanings that might bring good or bad fortune. Kaona ho’oʻinoʻino, pejorative innuendo. No wai ke kaona o kēlā mele? Who is being referred to in veiled language in that song?

Hawaiian Word of the Day: huakaʻi

huakaʻi: Trip, voyage, journey, mission, procession, parade; to travel, parade. kaʻi, to lead.
huakaʻi hele: Travels, a long trip; to keep traveling.
huakaʻi kaʻahele: Tour; to make a tour.

Hōkūleʻa sails

Hōkūleʻa sails

George Helm

Kaho’olawe Aloha ʻĀina

Walaʻau–talking story

I spent my day yesterday playing around with some natural dyes I’ve collected, and dye mediums. I practiced printing designs with my ʻohe kāpala (bamboo stamps). This is one of my practice pieces done on watercolor paper with kukui nut ashes (grey) and ʻalaea (red).

kapa wehi

kapa wehi

I used kukui nut oil mixed with water as the medium for the ‘alaea. It made a good consistency that enabled the pigment to be both dark enough and fluid enough for printing. The kukui ash did not work well with oil and/or water. I ended up using it dry and applied it using a small piece of kapa as a brush. This method of “dry painting” with a tapa brush was noted by Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck) who was a director at the Bishop Museum from 1936 until he died in 1951. Among his many achievements, Buck wrote a series of scholarly publications entitled “Arts and Crafts of Hawaii” (1964) in which he wrote on various subjects of Hawaiian cultural life. Clothing, was one of the sections and it includes a pretty thorough discussion of Hawaiian kapa history, tools, and processes. Some other sections in the Arts and Crafts of Hawai’i series are food, houses, canoes, fishing religion, war and weapons, death and burial, and more.

Kapa Revival Project

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