Artist/maker: Dennis Kana'e Keawe
Date of Manufacture: 4/2001
Description: A small piece of white cloth with black geometric patterns printed on, and a raised geometric pattern embossed in the front of the cloth.
Dimensions: L 40.6 cm, W 57.2
Catalog Number: HALE 210


kapa (Hawaiian bark cloth) is made by soaking and pounding plant fiber with an i‘e kuku (wooden kapa beater) until the fiber is very thin. Some of the plant species used in kapa making include wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera), ʻulu (Artocarpus altilis), maʻaloa (Neraudia melastomifolia), māmaki (Pipturus albidus), ʻākala (Rubus hawaiensis), and hau (Talipariti tiliaceum). Traditionally a woman’s craft, both men and women now make kapa, and each kapa maker has a distinct watermark design. This allows people to recognize the kapa maker. Once the cloth is finished it is scented. Ancient Hawaiians would wear the kapa as clothing, ali‘i (chiefs) would use kapa as bed covers, and the cloth was used for making banners depicting images of Hawaiian gods. On display at the Kīpahulu Visitor Center.
kapa beater
Artist/maker: Kawai Aona-Ueoka
Date of Manufacture: 10/30/2000
Description: Squared with three working faces and one watermark face upena (net design). Made of wood.
Dimensions: L 40.5 cm, W 4.7 cm, Thickness 4.7 cm
Catalog Number: HALE 204

iʻe kuku

iʻe kuku or kapa beater. This four-sided wooden object is used to pound plant fiber into kapa. A typical iʻe kuku, like this one pictured, is made of hard wood, and has grooves of various widths on each side. Each of these sides has its purpose in working the kapa cloth. While men typically carved the i'e kuku in ancient Hawai'i, kapa making was traditionally a woman's task. Each kapa maker has a distinct design on their iʻe kuku. This design creates a watermark on the kapa cloth which allows people to see who the kapa maker is.

Last updated: December 10, 2019

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