In Our Kaka‘ako, we celebrate learning, native culture, the roots of our history, and entrepreneurship, which all came together for the Hawaiian Crafts Workshop & Sale. We welcomed several kumu (teachers) to join us for four unique workshops. The intimate classes allowed our kumu to talk story and give each student attention while guiding them step by step to their finished crafts.
Kumu Wes Sen took us through the entire journey of the traditional Hawaiian kapa design process. Starting with a stiff piece of kapa (barkcloth), Kumu Wes showed us how to pound the material with a stick to make it soft and pliable. Next, we learned the meanings behind the various stamps we chose from Kumu Wes’ collection to embellish our kapa. After inking the stamps with natural lauhala brushes — dried fruits from the hala tree — we pressed the stamps onto the kapa, producing distinctive traditional patterns with all-natural inks. For a pop of color, we grated ʻōlena (turmeric) to create a bright orange ink, while noni plants were used for the dark reddish-purple ink, which were then painted onto the kapa to complement the black geometric designs.
Kumu Nalu Andrade showed us how to carve the traditional wooden stamps used for kapa design, or ‘ohe kāpala. With special tools that cut out diamonds and triangles, we etched our designs into the bamboo blocks, taking care to face the tools’ edges away from us. We also got to ink and try out Kumu Nalu’s handmade stamps on paper — the combination of the bamboo carvings, painted ink, and hand-applied pressure resulted in natural-looking designs.
Kumu ‘Umi Kai guided us through the practice of Hawaiian knots and braids that would be useful in everyday life and on a waʻa (canoe). All of our cords were tied to one another and stretched across the table, connecting us in our efforts as we followed Kumu ‘Umi’s instructions. We then strung a shell onto a new cord and plaited it into a bracelet, a wearable keepsake of the class. The students ranged in ages and backgrounds, and our youngest participants (aged 7 and 9) became kumu in their own right, teaching our older participants how to seamlessly finish their designs.
Lauhala Bracelet Weaving
Kumu Mahina Pukahi and Kumu Cheryl Pukahi teamed up to teach us how to make lauhala bracelets. Starting with a handful of lauhala (pandanus leaf) strands, we wove them into a checkered pattern, building up the bracelet’s structure with each layer. Though some of us were unsure if we could complete the intricate designs, with determination, our bracelets were finished by the end of the two-hour workshop. We wore them with a newfound appreciation for the effort and artistry that goes into the craft.
We want to celebrate Hawaiian culture every day in the way we learn and live in Our Kaka‘ako and the greater island community. Mahalo to our kumu for sharing their mana‘o (knowledge) and crafts with us. Mahalo to those of you who attended the classes and stopped by to check out the handmade pieces for sale from our kumu, supporting our local artisans.
And mahalo nui loa to the Kaiāulu ‘o Kaka‘ako Owners Association for sponsoring the Hawaiian Crafts Workshop & Sale! This event was only the first — the KOK Association is sponsoring a series of cultural events, workshops, activities, and performances that will feature Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander artists, artisans, music, films, and more. We look forward to sharing more to come in the new year and hope to see you there!
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