E Ulu A Paa

344 - Kapa Cloth Art, by Verna Apio Takashima

Artwork & Cultural Items
Starting Bid: $850

This beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of kapa (barkcloth) is made from wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera), also known as paper mulberry. This kapa is dyed with berries with an alum mordant and printed using ‘ohe kāpala, bamboo stamps.

Dimensions: 2 feet x 3 feet

Kapa-making is an all-encompassing process. It begins with making the tools and planting wauke. Takashima harvests young wauke after about 18 months, scrapes off the outer bark, beats the inner bast upon a smooth stone, ferments the fibers and beats the pulp into layers, in a process that can take hundreds of hours. She then gathers clays, minerals and plants to make her own dyes, which she stamps or paints onto the fabric in bold geometric patterns.

About the Artist:
Verna Takashima is a fifth generation kapa maker. She began making kapa at the age of 58, inspired by her brother Solomon Apio, who is a woodworker. She specializes in creating kapa that can be worn and shares her passion by conducting workshops across the State. Verna’s interest in kapa making is the result of an interesting story. Her brother Sol learned as a result of his volunteer work at Bishop Museum that cultural historian Emerson, who was the son of missionaries and an avid Hawaiian language speaker in the 1800s, once purchased cultural items from a lady by the name of Kahunaaina that are now part of the Museum’s collections. Sol quickly realized that this lady was his grandmother. “Mama” Kahunaaina was a kapa maker in the 1800s. This discovery led Sol to encourage his sister Verna to take up kapa making. To both Verna and Sol, it appeared to be the natural thing to do in an effort to perpetuate this family tradition. Today Verna’s kapa are on display at Bishop Museum alongside the work of her grandmother, Kahunaaina as part of Emerson’s collections. Most cultural practitioners hope that their work is carried on by future generations, and it is even more meaningful when it passes and is carried on by future generations of a family.