Kapa, or Tapa, is the traditional textile of Hawaiʻi.

The first Hawaiians carried wauke here, to the most isolated island group on the planet. They developed a kapa industry full of farmers, kapa tool makers, kapa pounders, dyers, and designers!

How It's Made

Kapa is made by stripping, pounding, and fermenting the mo‘omo‘o-inner bark, or bast fiber, of the Wauke tree. The practice begins with planting and tending Wauke and and many other plants used for color, waiho‘olu‘u. It begins with mālama ‘āina and working in the māla. After harvesting the Mo‘omo‘o, it is pounded, then fermented.  Once fermented and soft and squooshie, it is pounded into sheets of Kapa.  From there, the skyʻs the limit!

From Colonization to Reclamation

With contact from the outside world, and in less than a decade, the Hawaiian Islands were completely transformed from a sustainable, balanced, thriving community, into one taken over almost completely by Western values and practices. Kapa was quickly replaced with woven textiles from America and Europe. The practice, much like the language, was almost completely lost.​

However, a handful of practitioners in recent history emerged through research, travel, apprenticeship, and practice. Today, kapa is grabbing the attention of many artisans worldwide, and is being practiced regularly here in Hawaii. Through trial and error, all of us kapa makers are still finding our way, learning our practices.

As a fiber, wauke has the potential to go beyond the fabrics of our ancestors and to become something completely new. Stay tuned to see what comes next!