kapa kulture

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

Archive for the tag “hawai’i”

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

Dyes & Designs in Samoan Siapo

Faʻa Samoa…In the Samoan Way…

Natural Dye
Dyes used in Samoan siapo come from nature. They are extracted or ground from nuts, tree bark, tree sap, roots, and seeds. There are five colors collected: oʻa is brown, lama is black, ago is yellow, loa is red, and soaʻa is purple. The traditional designs are symbols that reflect Samoan natural environment. There are 13 symbols used in siapo and they represent nets, coconut leaf and sennit, the trochus shell, pandanus blooms, pandanus leaves, breadfruit leaf, sandpiper bird designs, starfish, banana pod, rolled pandanus leaves, worm (this is almost extinct), centipede (which has been discontinued), and lastly, logologo (not found in modern siapo to the point that the meaning of this design has been lost). Original siapo artworks are made by combining these design elements (siapo.com).

Design Methods
There are two kinds of siapo design application methods practiced in Samoa and they are Siapo ʻElei (the rubbing method) and Siapo Mamanu (the freehand method). The Siapo ʻElei method leaves an imprint on the uʻa (bark cloth material). This is done by laying the uʻa on a design printing block that is carved into wood, called an upeti, and rubbing the uʻa with a swab that has been dipped in oʻa. Oʻa is a brown dye that is extracted from the bark of the Bishofia javanica, or blood tree. This is a pest in the Hawaiian Islands where it is known as the Bishop Tree or is called koko (blood). It is also called koko in Tonga and other island languages. The oʻa changes color over time from a pale tan to a rich, dark brown.

The next step in the process is to rub a red color over to define the design. Arrowroot plant is used as glue and is dabbed on any small holes, and then a second layer is placed on top and rubbing the oʻa is repeated, this time pressing the two layers together. Sections are joined using arrowroot and rubbing. This is usually the end of the process for large pieces known as ululima and uluselau. But for smaller pieces called vala, the design might be highlighted with more brown dye. Upeti in the older form was of both the sewn midrib variety as in Tongan kupesi, and also carved wood. Today, the men have been carving the upeti and have become the main artist of siapo ʻelei designs. However, they still base their designs on the traditional symbols. One upeti carving can yield many different imprints as dye can be applied to certain areas only to create an interesting design using the positive and negative space (Pacific Tapa, p. 16, 1997).


Siapo Mamanu is the freehand method of design and is creatively applied by hand using a dried pandanus brush, called a paogo. The design is created by the artist using black dye to sketch the design, and then the artist may choose to use a veriety of color to finish the piece (siapo.com)

These two methods of desing can also be combined to create unique artwork that is reinvented with each piece of uʻa. Siapo is one of the oldest art forms and symbols of Samoan culture. Used for clothing, burial shrouds, bed covers, ceremonial garments, and much more… (siapo.com)

Sovereignty inspired at Kahoʻolawe

It is common knowledge that the Hawaiian Monarchy was illegally overthrown with the help of the United States military in 1893. Hawaiʻi was annexed as a territory to the United States illegally in 1898. The Hawaiian Islands became the 50th state in 1959.

“…And in our effort to appear American, we sought to bury that which was Hawaiian. We reorganized our Hawaiian-ness to conform with tourism’s and Hollywood’s pictures of Hawaiians” (p 95).

After decades of discrimination and dispossession, a movement coined the Hawaiian Renaissance began in the 1970’s. It was a turning point and a source of empowerment for Hawaiians.

“On the fourth of January, 1976, Hawaiian resistance broke through the surface. On that day, George Jarret Helm, Jr., Noa Emmett Aluli, Walter Ritte, Jr., and six other young Hawaiians illegally landed on the island of Kahoʻolawe to protest military use of Hawaiian land [for bombing practice and military exercises]” (p. 95).

“If the Dick and Jane books not going to make you proud of who you are, Kahoʻolawe is going to.” ~George Jarret Helm, Jr.

“George Helm and the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana sought their vision for the future in the wisdom of the past. The struggle for Kahoʻolawe was as cultural as it was political. The leaders of the movement went to kūpuna and kāhuna for guidance that comes from the Hawaiian past and for advice to help restore what is Hawaiian for the present and the future” (p. 97).

“One by one, and then by twos and threes and fours, people and groups rallied to the cause. Save Mākua, Save Sand Island, Save Waimānalo, Save Anahola, Save Kaʻū, Save Wao Kele O Puna, Save Honokahua, Save Hālawa Valley, Save Sunset Beach, Save Miloliʻi: Life of the Land, Pele Defense Fund, Ka ʻOhana o Ka Lae, Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian Nation. Hawaiian voices rose in protest, protest against wrongs done in the past, against abuse in the present, against the loss of Hawaiʻi in the future” (p 99).

In 1992, the United States returned Kahoʻolawe to the people of Hawaiʻi…

Excerpts from “Then There Were None” by Martha H. Noyes (pp.95-97, 2003)

Operation Sailor Hat on Kahoʻolawe, 1965

Operation Sailor Hat on Kahoʻolawe, 1965

Map of Hawaiʻi showing Kahoʻolawe

Map of Hawaiʻi showing Kahoʻolawe

Island of Kahoʻolawe

Island of Kahoʻolawe

Hawaiian Word of the Day: lāʻau lapaʻau

lāʻau lapaʻau: Medicine. Lit., curing medicine.



Hawaiian Word of the Day: kumu

kumu: 1. Bottom, base, foundation, basis, title (as to land), main stalk of a tree, trunk, handle, root (in arithmetic); basic; hereditary, fundamental. Kumu pali, base foot of a cliff. ʻIke kumu, basic, fundamental knowledge. Aliʻi kumu, hereditary chief. Alanui kumu, main street. ʻAuikumu, nominative case. Kumu kāhili, staff of a kāhili. Kumu nalu, source of waves, as where surfing starts. Mai ke kumu ā ka wēlau, from trunk to tip [all, entirely]. (Proto-Polynesian: tumu.) 2. Teacher, tutor, manual, primer, model, pattern. Kumu alakaʻi, guide, model, example. Kaʻu kumu, my teacher. Kumu hoʻohālike, pattern, example, model. Kumu hula, hula teacher. Kumu kuʻi, boxing teacher. Kumu kula, school teacher. Kumu leo mele, song book. Kumu mua, first primer. 3. Beginning, source, origin; starting point of plaiting. ho’okumu. To make a beginning, originate, create, commence, establish, inaugurate, initiate, institute, found, start. 4. Reason, cause, goal, justification, motive, grounds, purpose, object, why. Kumu no ka ʻoki male, grounds for divorce. Kumu ʻole, without reason or cause. He aha ke kumu i ʻeha ai kou wāwae? What is the reason for your foot hurting? 5. an article bought, sold or exchanged; price. kumu kūʻai. Kumu lilo, price paid, cost. Kumu loaʻa, selling price. 6. Herd, flock. kumu hipa, kumu pipi.



Hawaiian Word of the Day: ‘onipa’a

‘onipa’a: Fixed, immovable, motionless, steadfast, established, firm, resolute, determined (this was the motto of Ka-mehameha V and of Lili’u-o-ka-lani. Lit., fixed movement). hō’onipa’a. To fix, establish firmly. E hō’onipa’a loa wau iā ‘oukou (Bible: Jer. 42:10), I will plant you securely (Pukui & Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, 1971).


Hawaiian Word of the Day: lauhuki

lauhuki: 1. Tapa-soaking, to soak tapa. 2. (Cap.) Name of a goddess worshiped by tapa makers.



Hawaiian Word of the Day: hapa haole

hapa haole: Part-white person; of part-white blood; part white and part Hawaiian, as an individual or phenomenon. Hula hapa haole, a hula danced to a mele hapa haole (a Hawaiian type of song with English words and perhaps a few Hawaiian words) (Pukui & Elbert, 1971).

I am hapa haole.

I am hapa haole. He hapa haole au.

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