Kapa is bark cloth made into beautiful textures, patterns, and colors. Kapa making is an art that reached perfection in Polynesia, and in ancient Hawai‘i, kapa was used in nearly every aspect of life. In ancient times, kapa making often took several people and days to complete. It included planting, gathering, striping, beating, and dying kapa. Wauke or the paper mulberry tree was the most preferred material or bark for making kapa as it was capable of becoming soft and almost pure white when pounded. Hawaiian kapa making is considered unique especially because of the many improvements and innovations the ancient Hawaiians made.
Unfortunately, once woven cloth became available to the Hawaiians, kapa soon became obsolete as it was no longer required. Nevertheless, the art of kapa making still allows us to learn about the ways of our ancestors. Many native Hawaiians today have made it a priority to learn more about replicating the techniques of kapa making in order to perpetuate the craft that their ancestors took so much pride in.
Though kapa making is now a rare form of art, the beauty and pride that resonates within the Hawaiian culture is still very much alive. Kapa will forever be a treasured artifact of the Hawaiian Islands.
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