HPA Isaacs Art Center Hosts Exhibit Honoring Tradition of Kapa Creation
Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy’s Isaacs Art Center is hosting a special exhibition that honors the evolving tradition of kapa creation.
“Kuku Kapa E” runs through Sept. 30 and features the historic kapa moe from the Hind-Vredenburg Collection, a key piece from the revival of kapa making. Each kapa in the exhibit is a connection to the traditions and dreams of the islands’ ancestors and the land that nourishes everyone throughout Hawaiʻi.
Creating cloth from the bark of trees was an everyday need in the Pacific until imported fabric became available to most islands by the mid-1800s. Hawaiʻi’s kapa was considered the finest in Oceania and examples from the Bishop Museum and the Theodore Vredenburg Collection at HPA inspired artists in the 20th and 21st centuries to revive, learn and create.
Instrumental in this revival was educator and lei maker Marie McDonald, who retired to Waimea in 1973. She began unraveling the mysteries of nurturing her wauke grove, removing and soaking the inner bark, beating it again and again onto a koa anvil made by her husband before imprinting watermarks and stamps with dyes that could wrap hula dancers or drape museum walls. McDonald created stunning kapa with traditional and contemporary designs.
Continuing her mother’s legacy, Roen Hufford of Waimea is curator for “Kuku Kapa E.” She inspired the kapa artists participating in the exhibit, from the Big Island and beyond, to submit their masterful creations for display. The exhibit offers a the chance to view an array of traditional and contemporary kapa and the implements for its making.
Participating artists include Hufford and McDonald as well as:
- Kealii Bertlemann of Waimea.
- Kili Correa of Waimea.
- Pualani Lincoln Maielua of Kawaihae.
- Lanakila Manguail of Hāmākua.
- Janice Mason of Waimea.
- Mary Milelzcik of Pāhoa.
- Avalon Dawn Paradea of Waikōloa.
- Lisa Chun Rodondi of San Rafael, Calif., and Kona.
- Mary Sakamoto of Waimea.
- Krista Skehan of Waimea.
- Ava Williams of Puakō.
“Together we discover new ways of adapting ancient methods: by researching ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi accounts, experimenting with dye chemistry and the creation of designs for imprinting on the dry kapa,” a brochure about the exhibit says. “Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we succeed. Always, there is curiosity and joy, patience and gratitude.”
For more information about the “Kuku Kapa E” exhibit, click here.
Isaacs Art Center is free and open to the public. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturdays.