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”

Hawaiian Word of the Day: palapala

palapala: 1. Document of any kind, bill, deed, warrant, certificate, policy, letter, tract, writ, diploma, manuscript; writing of any kind, literature; printing on tapa or paper; formerly the Scriptures or learning in general; to write, send a written message. 2. Maui name for pualu, a fish. 3. Variation of name for maomao, a fish (Pukui & Elbert, 1971).

Palapala to the U.S. written by Queen Lili'uokalani

Palapala to the U.S. written by Queen Lili’uokalani

“The Tapa” History and Process, Part 3

Throughout the South Pacific islands, each island nation has its own particular nuances in making tapa cloth, which distinguishes it from another. Traditional techniques were passed down and were a life skill in the community. Making tapa cloth was done primarily by women. It is a women’s art that has changed only slightly since ancient times.

Generally speaking, in Western Polynesia a piece of tapa was produced by pasting sheets together in layers and then joining smaller pieces by pasting to make a larger cloth. A heavy, coarse material results from this method. Whereas in Eastern Polynesia a felting process was done, pounding pieces into a single layer, without a fusing agent, or paste. Gradually a large piece of cloth is built up using this felting process. And a softer product is the result.

The tapa cloth in Polynesia begins with a basic process of removing the inner bark, or bast, from the trees and soaking this inner part in water for several days to soften and ferment the fibers and get them ready for pounding into thin sheets. The paper mulberry trees (wauke) are grown for this purpose and carefully cultivated. They are allowed to grow six to eight feet high until one to two inches in diameter. The trees are constantly cared for and tended while they grow. Young branches are broken off to ensure consistent, straight fibers to make smooth, whole tapa sheets unmarred by holes.

Special tools are used in the fabrication of tapa cloth. A type of anvil, a wooden block usually, is a sort of table that the bark is placed on and from start to finish, the tapa is pounded, or beaten. Techniques involve special shells used like knives to strip off the outer bark lengthwise from the tree, and to remove the bast. A selection of carved, wooden beaters flattens and spreads the fibers. Starting with a rounded club, moving to a grooved style that has four parallel sides, serving as steps toward finishing a smooth final product.

Additionally, Hawaiian tapa, or kapa cloth has a final step of beating, which leaves a watermark imprint on the cloth. This watermark is a unique carved design on a beater that served as the artist’s signature and finished the work in an important part of the felting process.

Kapa with watermark, at the California Academy of Sciences Natural History Museum, San Francisco

Kapa with watermark, made by Dalani Tanahy

Hawaiian Word of the Day: maoli

maoli: Native, indigenous, aborigine, genuine, true, real, actual; very, really, truly. Maika’i maoli, very good indeed. Kanaka maoli, ‘ōlelo maoli, Hawaiian native, Hawaiian language [so used in reports of 1852 legislative session]. E puka ai ka makemake maoli o ka mea koho, expressing the free will of the voter.

The Legend of the Kua Kapa

The Legend of the Kua Kapa
From “Nā Mo’olelo Hawai’i o ka Wā Kahiko, Stories of Old Hawai’i” By Roy Kākulu Alameida, Bess Press, Honolulu, 1997.

One day Kalei, who lived in Kahuku on O’ahu, could not find her kua kapa. She looked all over the hale, but it was nowhere to be seen. She asked her neighbors if they had seen it. No one had. She began to feel very sad because it was her favorite kua kapa.

Kalei walked through the village. She listened for her kua kapa. Each kua kapa gave a sound of its own that was either a high or low sound. Her kua kapa made a sound that only she could recognize. She heard others, but they were not hers. She walked to Maunalua, then to Manoa. She still could not find her kua kapa. After reaching Kapalama, she stopped to rest under a lama tree. She had been traveling all day and all night and she was very tired.

Soon Kalei was sound asleep. While she slept, a gentle breeze wafted over her. It carried a faint sound. She woke up with a start and listened carefully. Again, the gentle breeze wafted from ma uka. It carried a familiar sound through the valley to where she sat. “That sounds like my kua kapa,” Kalei said to herself. So Kalei started to walk in the direction of the sound. As she walked toward Līhu’e, near Ka’ala the sound got louder and louder. It sounded so sweet that tears began to roll down her cheeks. At last she would hold her favorite kua kapa again.

The woman who was using the kua kapa lived in Keanapueo, or owl’s cave, near Waikele. Kalei walked along the stream until she reached the cave. “That sounds like my kua kapa,” Kalei told the woman. “How did you get it?” She asked.

“I found it floating in the stream that comes from the mountain,” said the woman.

“It belongs to me. I recognize the sound,” said Kalei.

The woman gave back the kua kapa. But she was not convince that it belonged to Kalei. To see if Kalei was telling the truth, the woman followed her to Kahuku. When they reached there, the woman tied a bundle of ti leaves together. She tossed it into the stream at Pu’uho’olapa. After it floated downstream and disappeared, the woman returned to her home at Keanapueo. A few days later, she saw the bundle of ti leaves floating in the stream near her home. This proved to her that Kalei was the true owner of the kua kapa.

Glossary of Hawaiian Words

kua kapa: tapa-beating anvil

kapa: tapa (bark cloth)

hale: house

lama: hardwood tree

ma uka: toward the mountain

kua kapa o milo

kua kapa o milo

He Hawai’i au.

‘Ōlelo Hawai’i

Linguistic origin of the Hawaiian language can be traced through genealogy chants, indicating family ties to the South Pacific islands of Polynesia and beyond. Words have similarities in sound and meaning. For example, one general rule is that in South Pacific Polynesia, the /r/ and /t/ sounds substitute for /l/ and /k/, as in the words kapa, kalo, and moku of Hawai’i and tapa, taro, and motu of Tahiti. An exception to this rule is found in Ni’ihau, where a soft /t/ sound is predominantly used in place of the /k/. The /k/ used in song, prayer and other specific occasions.

word_translation

Hawaiian Word of the Day: lōkahi

lōkahi: Unity, agreement, accord, unison, harmony; agreed, in unity. Mana’o lōkahi, unanimous. ho’olōkahi: To bring about unity; to make peace and unity; to be in agreement (Pukui & Elbert, 1971).

Hawaiian Word of the Day: pōmaika’i

pōmaika’i: Good fortune, blessedness, blessing, profit, prosperity; prosperous, fortunate, beneficial, blessed, lucky; good luck, improvement (of property), welfare, benefits. Pōmaika’i au, blessed am I. He pōmaika’i ‘ia mai ke Akua, a blessing from God. E pili mau nā pōmaika’i me ‘oe, may you always have good fortune [a way to say best wishes] Ho’o.pō.mai.ka’i: To cause good fortune; to bless, improve, ask grace; blessing (Pukui & Elbert, 1971).

How Kapa Was Made

From Na Mo’olelo Hawai’i o ka Wa Kahiko, Stories of Old Hawai’i, How Kapa Was Made, p. 66-67. by Roy Kakulu Alameida (1997), Bess Press, Honolulu

How Kapa Was Made
After he died, Maikoha became the ‘aumakua of all kapa makers. Wauke branches were planted on all the islands. Prayers and sacrifices were offered to Maikoha. Soon each of his daughters also became an ‘aumakua. Lauhu’iki became the ‘aumakua of all the women who pounded the prepared bark from the wauke. She was given the power of finding kapa in the bark of the tree. She also had the power of teaching others how to pound the bark correctly. She taught them how to care for those who worshiped her. The other daughter, La’ahana, was worshiped by those who used special kapa ku’i that made marks and patterns on the kapa. Thus, Maikoha and his daughters were the main ‘aumakua of all kapa makers. But the other gods from time to time found new ways to use the wauke.

One was ‘Ehu. He learned and taught others how to dip kapa into dyes to give it color. He discovered that a red dye can be made from the kukui tree. Prayers and food were offered to him while the dyes were being collected and when the kapa maker wanted to add color to the kapa. There were kapa of different colors and designs. Sometimes kapa were spotted by sprinkling colors over them. Sometimes torn-up pieces of kapa were pounded together with new kapa to produce a spotted look. Sometimes bamboo was used to draw lines and figures. White kapa were used in the heiau to cover the images. When kapa was laid on an object, it meant that the object was not to be touched. Anyone who removed the kapa would be punished by the ‘aumakua. When kapa was hung on a pole and placed on a trail, it meant that the trail was kapu. A kapa dipped in black dye was kept for covering the body of an ali’i who had died.

Sometimes the sweet-smelling flowers or the oil from the ‘iliahi tree were pounded into the kapa. Flowers from the niu and hala and other sweet-smelling plants were placed in hot water. This made perfume. When the kapa was perfumed, it was dried inside a house. That way the smell would not be lost.

Sometimes kapa were well scraped with pieces of shell or rubbed with stones. Then they were rolled in dirt and placed in a calabash. They were soaked in water for a long time. After they were washed and pounded again, the kapa became very soft. Often kapa were spread out over cold, wet freshwater moss overnight. This made kapa very bright and shining. Spider eggs were often used to oil the kapa.

Hina, the mother of Maui, was a great kapa maker. Her kapa is spread all over the sky. These are the beautiful clouds of all colors. Sometimes they are piled on top of each other. Sometimes they are lying in sheets. Sometimes the strong winds blow and lift and toss the kapa. The winds blow off the stones Hina placed on the kapa to hold them down. Sometimes Hina throws off the stones herself. The noise of the rolling stones sounds like thunder. Sometimes Hina rolls the cloud sheets together. The folds flash in the light of the sun like lightning.

Glossary of Hawaiian Words

‘aumakua: family god (singular or plural form)

wauke: paper mulberry tree (Brousonetia papyrifera) its bark was pounded to make cloth

kapa: tapa (bark cloth)

kapa ku’i: tapa beater

kukui: candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccana)

heiau: temple

kapu: forbidden; sacred

ali’i: chief

‘iliahi: sandalwood (Santulum paniculatum)

niu: coconut (Cocos nucifera)

hala: pandanus tree (Pandanus utilis)

Hawaiian Word of the Day: huaka’i

huaka’i : Trip, voyage, journey, mission, procession, parade; to travel, parade. ka’i, to lead. (Pukui & Elbert, 1971)

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