kapa kulture

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

Bark Cloth of Aotearoa and Rapa Nui ~ New Zealand and Easter Island

The word “Polynesia” comes from two Greek root words “poly” which means many, and “nesos”, or nesia, which translates as islands.  Therefore, Many Islands is the meaning of Polynesia.  The island nation of Aotearoa, also called New Zealand, is located in the western region of the South Pacific Ocean. Rapa Nui, also called Easter Island, is located off the coast of Chile,  in the eastern South Pacific.  Aotearoa and Rapa Nui make up the base of the Polynesian Triangle, which has the Hawaiian Islands at the northern apex.  All the islands within the borders of the Polynesian Triangle are considered part of Polynesia.


In Aotearoa, aute is the name given to the paper mulberry tree and the beaten cloth.  What evidence do we have to tell the story about aute from Aotearoa?  Well, historians and archaeologists have been able to piece together some important facts from the very little material remains of aute by the Maori people.  Firstly, aute is mentioned in Maori oral histories.  In particular, the kite of the demi-god Maui.  It is believed that the paper mulberry tree was brought on the canoes of Polynesian ancestors and was cultivated on aute plantations up until the 1840’s.   According to historical documents, Captain Cook was shown a highly valued plantation of aute trees in 1769.  The impact of European contact and cattle farming are causes that led to the final extinction of Maori aute plantations.   However, evidence indeed proves that aute was used for wrapping religious god images and protecting valuables; as seen in the finished pieces found hidden in ancient dry caves.  Furthermore, some worn aute beaters have been recovered in swamps and these are estimated to be several hundred years old. Apart from this evidence, not much of material remnant has been found of the aute of Aotearoa.

There is less information available about the production of bark cloth in Rapa Nui. Even so, several figurines and artifacts that have been found.  These are either completely made of tapa cloth or dressed in tapa cloth. Some are said to be god images, they have a fierce expression and are in a seated position with arms bent (Peabody Museum).


tapa figure_human effigy_Easter Island artifact @ Peabody Museum, Harvard

Rapa nui figurine-Painted Tapa Cloth -Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology- Harvard University, Oceania Collection

headband_rapa nui

Rapa Nui Headband-Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology-Harvard University


Ka māla i ka pā hale

wauke forest

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year, Happy New Hohoa!

new hohoa

These five hohoa were made in record time with a lot of effort so that now I’m sore!  But I’m glad to provide these for my students.  Now we will not have to borrow as many to make our kapa.   However, my work is not yet done because I will need at least 15 more pieces of similar quality!  My goal is to create a set of hohoa and i’e kuku for my classes to use.  No worries though.  The key is to always be collecting wood and working steadily… Imua!

The onset of this new year makes my heart feel glad and appreciative.  I am thankful for my ‘ohana (family).  They continuously help me with the actual work of making these mea kapa, and especially give generously of their encouragement to see that kapa is made and appreciated.  Mahalos to these special people for putting up with all my potions, barks, and branches that have become a part of our daily lives. If you don’t know, making kapa has a very smelly stage.  It is indeed for the love and the knowledge of the sweet result.  So very kamaha’o (astonishing)!

This new year my kuleana (responsibility) will continue to involve haumana (students).  We are building a garden that will include kapa plants such as wauke, noni, kukui, olena, ‘uki’uki, ma’o, and ilie’e…to mention a few.  We will incorporate learning with focus on Hawaiian values of malama (care), lokahi (unity), kokua (help), laulima (cooperation), and ‘olu’olu (pleasantness).

Here is another nice event.  Mr. Bill Arakaki, who is our Kauai and Niihau School Superintendent, informed me that I have been awarded the David Boynton Educational Grant.  This is a local grant that was established and named in honor of the late David Boynton.  I am so grateful for these funds. We will be purchasing the garden tools and supplies we need to get the Kapa Garden Project off the ground (hehe!).


I kū mau mau!


The Beauty of Mauna Kea

Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono, life of the land is preserved in righteousness….

Although Mauna Kea has been under siege, people care.  Technology is not a bad thing in and of itself, but the infrastructure needed to accommodate the humongous telescopes is detrimental to the natural and spiritual health of this most beautiful place.   If the need for infrastructure increases, then the situation will only become worse.  Electromagnetism is another concern and this kind of pollution is only now coming into public knowledge. E ola pono me ke malama pono kākou.  i kū mau mau!




Kīlauea Volcano’s summit eruption in Halema‘uma‘u Crater turns 7 soon

Pacific Island National Parks

The following is an excerpt from this week’s edition of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory‘s Volcano Watch, with tips on viewing the Halema‘uma‘u eruption within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park provided by park rangers.  

The lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea on February 1, 2014. USGS Photo. The lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea on February 1, 2014. USGS Photo.

While Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone eruption at Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō has been making headlines with the June 27th lava flow and its hazards, Kīlauea’s summit eruption within Halema‘uma‘u Crater has steadily continued in the absence of much press. However, the lack of media attention does not reflect on the eruption’s remarkable nature.

Kīlauea’s ongoing summit eruption began on March 19, 2008, after several months of increasing seismic tremor and gas emissions. A small “throat clearing” explosion opened a new crater (informally called the Overlook crater, because it is located immediately below the former National Park visitor overlook) on…

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Mauna Loa: Quiet for Many Years, But Not to be Forgotten

Pacific Island National Parks

ʻAʻā lava flows erupt from the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa on March 25, 1984—the first day of the volcano’s most recent eruption. (USGS photo.)

The following is this week’s edition of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory‘s Volcano Watch:

Over the past few months, Mauna Loa, Hawaiʻi Island’s largest volcano, has shown subtle signs of stirring from its 31-year-long slumber (its most recent eruption began on March 25, 1984). The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) has recorded numerous small earthquakes beneath Mauna Loa’s summit and western flank, and has detected slight expansion across Mokuʻāweoweo, the volcano’s summit caldera—signals that Mauna Loa should not be forgotten!

What can we expect as this great volcano reawakens and builds toward its next eruption?

Generally, as magma rises and eventually infiltrates and fills Mauna Loa’s summit magma reservoir, pressure builds within the volcano. When sufficient pressure is achieved, the volcano expands…

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Mauna Loa lava flow blazes a trail for the Saddle Road

Pacific Island National Parks

The following is this week’s edition of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory‘s Volcano Watch:

With the recent downgrade of the Volcano Alert Level for Kīlauea’s June 27th lava flow that has been threatening the Pāhoa area, it’s interesting to take a look back at the 1880-1881 Mauna Loa lava flow and the threat that it posed to Hilo.

A sketch by Joseph Nāwahī showing the 1881 lava flow approaching Hilo. (Courtesy of National Park Service, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, HAVO 394, Volcano House Guest Register 1873 to 1885, illustration by Joseph Nāwahī, February 21, 1881.) A sketch by Joseph Nāwahī showing the 1881 lava flow approaching Hilo. (Courtesy of National Park Service, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, HAVO 394, Volcano House Guest Register 1873 to 1885, illustration by Joseph Nāwahī, February 21, 1881.)

On the evening of November 5, 1880, people in Hilo and at the Volcano House hotel at the summit of Kīlauea noticed a glow on Mauna Loa—produced by an eruption located northeast of the volcano’s summit. A vent at about the 3,200 m (10,500 ft) elevation produced one lava flow that moved to the southeast…

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Map of Pacific Island Countries Producing “paperskin art”


Hawaiian Kapa and Contemporary Hawaiian Identity


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