Hawaiian Culture

Ka Hana Kapa

Hawaiian Kapa is traditional  bark cloth made from the “wauke”  or  paper  mulberry  tree (broussonetia papyrifera). The  bast or inner bark is fermented and  pounded  together. Kapa or tapa also known as ngatu,  masi or siapo in  other  parts  of   Polynesia. Hawaiian kapa, however   distinguishes  itself  as  the  finest  kapa because unlike in other places, it is fermented prior to pounding and  the end product is a soft refined material…soft enough to use as a receiving blanket for babies born to the highest chiefs. It was used to  make  skirts  and  loincloths in clothing as well as blankets and coverings. It was also used in ceremony and even as wicks for lamps.

The production of  kapa  is  a long  arduous task. This tradition was lost at one point and is now more than ever being perpetuated  both  as  a  practical  and  aesthetic art form. Hawaiian kapa is often decorated using bamboo stamps called ʻohe kāpala and natural dyes.   The full color palette is another factor that distinguishes Hawaii kapa.

Ka Mahi Wauke
He hana nui ka mahi wauke ʻana i ka wā kahiko ma Hawaiʻi nei. ʻOi aku ka nui ka hoihoi i ka hana kapa i kēia mau lā a penei nele nō ka mahi wauke. Ulu maikaʻi  ka wauke inā loaʻa ka wai he nui a me ka lā. ʻO ka poʻaʻaha ka inoa o ke ano wauke Hawaiʻi. Poepoe nō nā lau a keʻokeʻo a palupalu ke kapa. ʻO ke kapa i hana ʻia  mai ka poʻaʻaha no nā aliʻi.

The cultivation of the broussonetia papyrifera of simply wauke, sometimes identified as paper     mulberry was a very important part of life in old Hawaiʻi and is demanding more attention as more people are becoming interested in Kapa making.  The traditional Hawaiian variety of wauke is called poʻaʻaha and it has rounded leaves. It grows well with lots of water and sun and  makes soft white kapa fitting for the chiefs.

Ka Hoʻomākaukau ʻAna O Ka Wauke
ʻO ka hana mua ma hope o ka ʻohi ʻana i ka wauke pehē ʻia ka ʻili a koe ʻana i ke kae. Ma hope hohoa ʻia ka wauke ma ke kua pōhaku a lauhuki  ʻia i ke kai a i ʻole wai a palupalu.

First the outer bark is scraped, then slit vertically and the basy(inner bark) is peeled off the core wood. It is then beaten to open fibers with a hohoa or rounded beater on a stone anvil. Then it is placed in sea water or fresh water and set to ferment.

Ke Kuku Kapa
Ke mākaukau ka kae, kuku ʻia i na manawa he nui ma ke kua lāʻau me ka iʻe kuku. ʻEhā nā alo o ka iʻe kuku: ka mole, pepehi, hoʻopaʻi a me hoʻoki. Ke pau ke kuku ʻana, hoʻoki ʻia ke kapa me ka iʻe a paʻa ʻia me nā ʻiliʻili e kaulaʻi.
When the bast is sufficiently fermented it is beaten again , this time on a wooden anvil with a square beater with functional lines and shapes a well as a smooth surface. The kapa is beaten for one last time with a watermark face and set to dry in the sun anchored with smooth stones.

e mau ana…(to be continued)

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ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi- Hawaiian Language

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 “I ka ʻōlelo ka mana”There is spiritual power in the word. Today, many of us look for our roots, our connections and identity through learning our mother tongue and yet without a cultural and spiritual foundation the understanding and knowledge is not complete. Language and culture go hand in hand. Our people are a deeply rooted spiritually, so within the parameters of culture, spirituality is very present. Hawaiian was only written down after western contact. The deeper understanding and “kaona” or hidden meanings cannot be understood without both. The utterance of words and sounds cannot be fully understood outside a cultural context. The nuances of the language with itʻs sounds and accompanying body language, allusions to nature and the elements createa complex and fascinating perception of the world and our place in it.Punanaleo
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Mele Hawaii

Hawaiian Song, Chant and Poetry

In the word there is life, in the word there is death. Hawaiian people in their spirituality and understanding of their surroundings had an intimate interdependent relationship to their surroundings and nature. This lead to a complex system of multilevel understanding. A pig could be chanted to death to become the perfect offering without violence. The rains, winds and elements were acknowledged by name and called upon as needed or asked to accommodate other events. A lava flow would split in two in order to avoid the destruction of a house. All of these accounts and more are reflected in our “mele”. There is ʻmele hula” rhythmic dances and songs that tell the stories through movement as the words create images of understanding. My kumu often said the words are the most important part of hula , the motions serve to enhance the images the words create. Sadly this is not always the case because not enough people know our language. But when you do, it is the most beautiful experience of entering into a vibrational state where everything comes alive. Then there is “mele oli” which consists of the prayers, supplications, acknowledgements, praises and creations of every day life. It is rich and varied and not mere repetition but creation again of a vibrational state that affects those within range of the vibration. when my students chant I look away and listen with a more acute sense of hearing but ultimately I “feel” with my spirit. Just as I look to feel the dancer who moves me to that space where tears flow and soul memory kicks in. It is life in its simplicity together with its complexity.

Aʻiaʻi on wall at MailekiniE apo a honi

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    Hula – Hawaiian Dance

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There is ʻmele hula”  rhythmic dances and songs that tell the stories through movement as the words create images of understanding. My kumu often said the words are the most important part of hula , the motions serve to enhance the images the words create. Sadly this is not always the case because not enough people know our language. But when you do,  it is the most beautiful experience of entering into a vibrational state where everything comes alive.”E ʻaʻa i ka hula” Dare to dance… hula is poetry in motion, hula is aloha, hula is uplifting, hula is good for the soul, hula is life… Hula has been my passion since I was about 3 years old when I can remember dancing “Lovely Hula Hands” , learned from my Aunty Linda, at my grandmotherʻs store in Waipahu. I used to stand at the door of Leialoha Studios while my mother shopped at Castnerʻs in Wahiawa. I was heart broken when my mother wouldnʻt let me be in the hōʻike for my class at Hale Koa Parks and Recereation with Uncle George. No one in my family thought hula was important except me and then there was my Aunty Linda who moved to California but she danced for many years with Kuulei Clark. Even to this day I recognize the feeling, whether on the stage at Merrie Monarch, or Kamehameha Day competition, ʻIolani Palace, doing basic warm ups in halau, dancing at a culturally significant event, in a sacred space, at a May Day program in high school. Hula has always called me and I responded. While living abroad I had my plan for when I returned home who I would dance for.  Kahaʻi Topolinski was my Hawaiian studies teacher in high school and the beginning of a living a dream when I did the May Day program. Upon returning from living abroad in Spain where I dabbled in flamenco with 2 young children and no job yet I had my whites and was going through grueling basics and savoring every second of it. We had practices, homework, performances, we made our own implements and rigorous training for competitions. All the pain stress and hardship was well worth it. Hula was my foundation and window into my cultural and spiritual roots.  I later had the honor to study and learn from other kumu, Kupuna Minerva Pang, Carla Akiona, and my dear friend Pattye Wright and even a few months for Leialoha Lee whose door I had stood in as a child, longing to be dance.  Mahalo e nā Kumu.

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Hōkūleʻa Holomoana

Polynesian Way Finding

“Ia waʻa nui, ia waʻa kialoa, ia waʻa peleleu….”IMGP0627

“The big long, light swift canoe” skimming the waves with such grace. Thatʻs what it feels like on Makaliʻi.  On Hokuleʻa  you become a part of modern Hawaiian renaissance because Hokuleʻa made the 2500+mile voyage to Tahiti in 1976 with only traditional way finding techniques and showed the world our skill, strength endurance and tenacity as Polynesian Way Finders. Alana Aloha was a three man canoe we built in 3 weeks to take as a gift to Israel to celebrate the Return of the Sons of Noah. Mahalo Leon Siu.

Being on the canoe is  life. We depend on each other, trust each other and work together. Sometimes we go off track but we pray and get back on track. Being one with the ocean. Even if you only paddle a six man, itʻs you and Kanaloa. Our foundation for all island people.

IMGP1198Sail on and on and on till the journeyʻs end.

Follow the stars at night,high in the southern sky, Kealiiokonaikalewa, into the night while Orion dies.”

words by Carlos Andrade

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Kuku Kapa E

He mea kuapaianaha ka hana kapa. ʻAʻole o kana mai ka nui o ka ʻiʻini! ʻAʻole i hiki iaʻu ke kūkū kapa no ʻeono mau pule a nui ʻino ka ʻiʻini e kūkū kapa. ʻAkahi no i hele i HOEA. He polokolamu hana noʻeau/pāheona Hawaiʻi. Maikaʻi loa a nui ʻino ka hana akā ua pono nō e hoʻi i ka hale e kūkū kapa. ʻAʻole au ahonui, ʻaʻole hiki ke hoʻomanawanui. He wahine koʻikoʻi akā ʻaʻole loa ʻōpūahonui. I ka makahiki 2000 paha, ua kūkū a hoʻopau i koʻu kapa mua loa ma ke awāwa o Kahakuloa i Maui. Na ʻAnakē Val (ʻAiwohi) Dukelow ka i aʻo mai a hōʻike mai pehea la ia hana. Ua hana i ke kapa 4 kapuaʻi no 4 kapuaʻi no nā ʻiwi kūpuna. Keʻokeʻo kēlā kapa me he hau i luna o Mauna Kea. Mamuli o ka lahilahi o ua kapa pono māua e hāpai ia me mau laʻau e alo i ka nahae ʻana o ke kapa. Ua noho au e kūkū ana i ka wela o ka lā i ao ka pō no hoʻokahi lā me ka hapalua. I kaʻu ʻike i ka hopena o kaʻu hana ua maopopo nō e kūkū kapa hou ana au. Mau no koʻu ʻiʻini e hana kapa no na loina Hawaiʻi. I kēlā makahiki aku nei ua hele i kekahi papa kapa i ka pō ma Ke Kula Kaiaulu o Leeward. He kumu kula kiʻekiʻe ʻŌlelo Hawaii me hula au a waiho wale au  i kēlā hana no ka mea nele nō i ka manawa no kaʻu hana pili ʻuhane ʻe aʻe a no ka hoʻomau a hahi i koʻu alahele a me ka hana kapa.
Ke manaʻo no au i ke Kapa pono au e hōʻike a mahalo aku i kaʻu kumu kapa Dalani   Tahany. ʻO kaʻu kumu ʻo ia. Nāna nō e hoʻeuʻeu iaʻu e hoʻomau. Haʻawi hoʻi ʻo ia i ka wauke iaʻu e kūkū. He kanaka paheona maikaʻi loa ʻo  Dalani  a he kumu maoli nō. Akā ʻo ka mea ʻoi aʻe  kona hoʻomana iaʻu i kēia hana kapa, ka hana noʻeau a kā mākou mau kūpuna. Mahalo piha iā ʻoe e Dalani. Mau nō kona hōʻeuʻeu a hoʻoulu iaʻu. He haumana wale nō a hoʻohaʻahaʻa ʻia au e  kūkū i ka pāʻū no kēia hana hui pū me Hālau o Kekuhi. ʻAno haʻalulu akā hiki nō iaʻu ke kūkū kapa. ʻO ka hana i nā waihoʻoluʻu he hana nui kekahi a ma hope ka hoʻonaninani me ke kāpala aku …He hana pili ʻuhane ka hana kapa naʻu. Pule mau a oli au ke kūkū kapa a hiki mai nā kūpuna e nānā a    kamaʻilio me aʻu. Ua hanaleʻa au i ke Awāwa ʻo Waimea ma Oʻahu a kūpinaʻi ke kuku i ia wahi.
ʻO koʻu makemake ka hana i 100 ʻapana kapa palupalu a keʻokeʻo ma hope o ka papa kapa me Dalani. Aia au e kuku i ka ʻapana  helu 62 paha. Ua hana i ka malo he 12 mau kapuaʻi, a kekahi kapa no nā ālia no Makahiki, mea hoʻonaninani. Nui nā ʻapana kapa keʻokeʻo. Hana wau i kekahi kapa uhi no ka ʻumeke ʻawa no nā aliʻi o Puukoholā a me ka pāʻū no Hālau o Kekuhi i kēia manawa. Aʻo mai au i ʻike hou ke kūkū kapa, ke waihoʻoluʻu, ke kālai i ka iʻe kukū, ke kāpala aku a pena i ke kapa. Eia no ka hui ʻana o ka naʻau , ka ʻuhane a me ke kino i ka hana noʻeau. ʻO ka hana noʻeau ʻōiwi ka mea e hoʻopili mai i kā mākou mau kūpuna iā mākou. ʻO ia hoʻi ka mea e hoʻomaopopo iā mākou ʻo wai ʻo mākou i kēia ola a he aha lā kā mākou hana ponoʻī. ʻO koʻu kapa ke aka o kaʻu alahele pili ʻuhane. He wahine Hawaiʻi kūkū kapa au nona ka iʻe kakani i ka pana o ke ola i kūpinaʻi mai ka wā i hala a i kēia ao a hoʻolaha i wā e hiki ana.
Aloha nō kākou a pau. Aʻiaʻi Bello

Kuku kapa e..Itʻs addicting!  Just canʻt get enough of it. I was unable to pound for the last 6 weeks and I was going nuts. Iʻve never considered myself a patient person,  passionate- yes! but patient?????    Back in 2000 maybe 2001 I pounded and completed my first piece of kapa in Kahakuloa valley under the watchful eye of Aunty Val (Aiwohi) Dukelow. It was 2ʻx4ʻ, white as snow and had to lifted and moved with wooden dowels because it was so fragile. I had sat pounding in the sun for a day and a half by the time it was joined to the other half to make a 4ʻx4ʻ piece for the iwi (bones). I knew one day I would make more kapa and it continues to be my desire to make kapa for ceremonial and cultural use. It wasnʻt until April 2009 that I could make time and took a course from at Leeward Community College night school. (I was planning to take a voice class that was not offered) I was a high school teacher who taught Hawaiian Language and hula among other things but I needed more time to dedicate to my spiritual work as well as making kapa so once I got a taste of kapa making…I left public education to continue this journey.

Kapa is traditional Hawaiian bark cloth made from the
“wauke” or paper mulberry tree (broussonetia papyrifera). The
fibers are fermented and pounded together. Hawaiian kapa, also
known as tapa, masi, ngatu or siapo in other parts of Polynesia,
distinguishes itself as the finest kapa because unlike in
others it is fermented prior to pounding and the end product is a
soft supple material…soft enough to use as a receiving blanket for
babies born to the highest chiefs. It was used to make skirts and
loincloths in clothing as well as blankets and coverings. It was
also used in ceremony and even as wicks for lamps. The production
of kapa is a long arduous task. This tradition was lost at one
point and now more than ever is being perpetuated both as a
practical and aesthetic art form. Hawaiian kapa is often decorated
using bamboo stamps called ʻohe kāpala and natural dyes.
Kapa is what Mauiʻs mother Hina was making when he was
asked to capture the sun. Maikohā and his two daughters Laʻahana
and Lauhuki are known as the patrons of Kapa making. Fine
kapa was a commodity in old Hawaiʻi and continues to be greatly
treasured. Owning a piece of kapa is very special .Kuku kapa e! 3

So now, 7 years and some 400 trees later, Iʻm still pounding and now teaching to make sure that it is continued, passed down to the next seven generations and that it is an art that does have a place in the lives of modern day Hawaiians.  Things that are alive change and grow so letʻs kuku… how about you?
2014-01-19 11.47.27These are my colleagues and mentors.
 E ola nō kākou a pau loa!
And this is the next generation.20160528_132514
Check out the kapa gallery for more kapa.
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Aloha kākou!
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