kapa kulture

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

Archive for the tag “mo’olelo”

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

Hawaiian Word of the Day: kāhili

kāhili: 1. Feather standard, symbolic of royalty; segment of a rainbow standing like a shaft (also a sign of royalty); to brush, sweep, switch (to spray, as in kāhilihili: Kāhilihili ke kai a ka he’e nalu, spraying sea of surf-rider).

Kāhili chants (As in ‘ou’ou, to describe the pinnacle or high peak): I ka lālā wēkiu ka pua o Lono, i ka ‘ou’ou o nā lani nui, in the topmost branch the flowers of Lono, among the highest of the high chiefs.

2. Pa’a kāhili, kāhili bearer. Kū kāhili, one standing by a kāhili or carrying it. Kāhili pulu, to clear away mulch. Haku ‘ia na’e ho’i ka hulu o ka moa i kāhili i mua o nā ali’i; kāhili ‘ia na’e ho’i kō kua, chicken feathers indeed are woven into a standard for the presence of the chiefs; your back is brushed by the kāhili.

ho’okāhili. To brush or fan gently. 2. The crape myrtle (Lagerstroemea indica), an ornamental shrub from China, with small oval leaves and panicles of pink, white, or purple crape flowers. 3. A small tree (Grevillea banksii) from Australia, related to the silky oak, ‘oka kilika, but the leaves with fewer subdivisions and the flowers red or cream-white. This is a later application of kāhili to a plant. Flowers not used for leis on head or around neck because of irritating hairs, but made into leis for hats by sewing alternated rows of flower clusters and own leaves on pandanus band. 4. Kāhili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), from the Himalaya region; much like the white ginger but with a more open flower head, the flowers with narrow yellow segments and one bright red stamen apiece. Also ‘awapuhi kāhili. 5. A seaweed, probably Turbinaria ornata.

kahili against flag quilt

kahili ginger

kahili bearer

restored kahili returned to bishop museum

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

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)

“The Tapa”

The Tapa
From my father’s side I am 100% Polish. On my mother’s side I am mostly Hawaiian-Portuguese. At this time in my life I am drawn to exploring my mother’s family, and my Hawaiian heritage that is part of this genealogy. These roots were nourished while I grew, through stories, visits to the land, food, relationships with my grandparents and aunties, uncles, and cousins.. There were two iconic artifacts that I remember well, even while far away from the beloved land of Hawai’i. They were with us in our home in San Francisco. Firstly, a large conch shell, luminous and white… It had a rosy-pink interior, and told secrets in the sound of the sea. Secondly, a lovely piece of bark cloth, about 7 feet long by about 4 feet high…an amber-colored, textured mystery from bygone days that often captured my attention. My siblings and I called it, “the tapa.” It hung prominently on a wall, next to a gigantic, over-sized spoon and fork carved from monkey pod wood. Those utensils could be considered a third icon…a story of colonial propaganda and a very unimaginative metaphor at that. So I am going to just skip that and move on…

When I was a young keiki, all I knew about tapa was that it was made from tree bark, and that it was used for clothing and bedding in the old Hawaiian days. I didn’t have any idea about the meaning of the printed designs, or the cultural significance. This piece of tapa that belonged to our family had come from a much larger piece. It had come to us first as a gift to my grandfather, from a Samoan friend of his. I don’t know how big it was originally, because my grandfather in turn had cut it into portions and given smaller pieces to his daughters and sons. My mother gave me her piece eventually. I have had it about 20 years now. Since it has been with me, I learned that this tapa that I have admired and treasured for most of my life, is Tongan. In its light golden brown and sepia tones the design is a print of hermit crabs, crescents, flowers, and wreaths spatially arranged with words written in Tongan. The words say:

“KO TONGA MOUNGA KI HE LOTO” “THE TONGA MOUNTAIN WITH HEART”

In some island cultures of Polynesia, making tapa has become extinct because over the last 300 years, everyday products and personal articles that were once made from it, have been replaced by western-style goods. On the other hand, there are island groups who have never stopped their traditional uses of tapa and these countries continue in its manufacture. In Hawai’i, where language and arts are being recovered there are some cultural practitioners who are once again beating out the bark of the wauke plant, otherwise known as the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera). Beating this plant or others similar to it produce tapa, or kapa as it is called in Hawaiian. Island cultures of Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji have managed to continue producing tapa even in the midst of colonization and cultural disruption. It is from these southern Polynesian nations that much of the traditional knowledge is gleaned to make Hawaiian kapa. The practice of both traditional and contemporary designs and techniques was passed down through the generations and is coming alive again in its vibrant legacy.

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