Ohe kāpala. Bamboo stamp. This is a thin and long stick that has been cut from a piece of 'ohe (bamboo). Positioned at the top is a carved motif used to imprint designs onto Kapa. The carved motif is a variation of intricate diamond shaped patterns lined together. The opposite end is squared off. Strands of the bamboo fibre have come away over time. The 'ohe kāpala is uneven in colour. Its base colour appears to have been a pale yellow but its use depicts staining from the dyes used in producing patterns on Kapa.
This is an 'ohe kāpala. It is a cut section from an 'ohe (bamboo) stem. It has a motif pattern carved onto one end. This is a tool used in decorating kapa. Natural plant dyes would be made and used with an 'ohe kāpala to stamp patterns onto the kapa. Depending on the maker and their intentions – the 'ohe kāpala can portray the makers lineage, environment or even a reflection of whom the piece was made for.
The God of Hawaiian Kapa: Maikohā
This mo'olelo portrays how the wauke (Paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera) and its intentions grew in Hawai'i.
The story of the Hawaiian God of Kapa: Maikohā, portrays how the wauke (Paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera) and its intentions grew:
“As Maikohā lay dying, he gave this command to his daughters: “When I am dead take me to the edge of the stream and bury me there. A tree will grow from my grave whose outer bark will furnish kihei (shawl), pā'ū (skirt), malo (loin cloth) and other benefits (pono) for you two"
His daughters obeyed his commands, and a tree did grow. That was the wauke, the paper mulberry. When the daughters saw it, they fetched it and worked it, beating the bark into cloth, skirts, and loin cloths. The sap flowed out, and wauke grew along the stream as far as the sea at Kīkīhale. That is how wauke spread in Hawai’i nei" (S.M.Kamakau. “Tales and Traditions of the People of Old|Nā Mo'olelo a ka Po'e Kahiko."1991.p.14)
Lauhuki and La'ahana: The daughters of Maikohā
Compared to other island nations who produce bark cloth, Hawaiian Kapa is uniquely defined by the various stages of beating, fermenting and watermarking. The daughters of Maikōha have a historic influence on how the wauke was processed to become Kapa. Lauhuki taught the art of beating the 'ili wauke and her sister La'ahana taught the process of watermarking and use of 'ohe kāpala (Bamboo dye stamp) to decorate the Kapa. Through their teachings they have become 'aumakua - ancestral craft gods.
Auckland Museum’s Pacific Collection currently holds over thirty three objects attributed to kapa. Like the flow of the wauke sap, there are many branches in producing Kapa. This can be fibre sourcing, fibre preparation and fermentation, beating, decorative technique and most siginificantly: the fashioning of the maker or wearers intentions.
We would like to give thanks to the Hawaiian knowledge holders who generously shared their mana`o and sources surrounding the significance of kapa. Additionally, we would like to honour the 'aumakua, who gifted Kapa to Hawai'i nei.
• M.Beckwith, 'Hawaiian Mythology’. U H Press. 1970.
• T.R.Hiroa, 'Arts and Crafts of Hawaii’. Bishop Museum Press. 1957.
• S.M.Kamakau, 'Tails and Traditions of the People of Old|Nā Mo'olelo a ka Po'e Kahiko’. Bishop Museum Press. 1991.
• S.Kooijman, 'Tapa in Polynesia’. Bishop Museum Press. 1972.
• W.T.Brigham. “Ka Hana Kapa" Memoirs of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Polynesian Ethnology and Natural History. 1911.
• Personal comms. Kumu Auli`i Mitchell and Kumu Keonilei Leali'ifano. 07.03.2018
• wauke (paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera)
• kihei (shawl)
• pā'ū (skirt)
• malo (loin cloth)
• pono (benefits)
• 'ohe kāpala (bamboo stamp)
• mo'olelo (story)
• i'e kūkū (grooved linear beater)