Hawaiian Kapa: The Cultural Aspects of its Designs

Fukumitsu, Anne
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
This paper originally was to concern itself with a study of the symbolism in the designs used to decorate Hawaiian bark cloth. Overwhelmingly, the references consulted refute the existence of symbolism in kapa designs. Attempted in this thesis, instead, are a review of the available information and a few theories on the possible meanings of some of the designs with some thoughts on kapa tradition itself. A working knowledge of the Hawaiian language and culture would have been of immeasurable value, especially in developing insight into the meanings of the Hawaiian names given the designs. With this knowledge a researcher studying a topic like kapa would be more independent of the reference literature and could reinterpret the old information and could even discover new facts. A try at making kapa, experiencing the mechanics of its production, would also have been beneficial to gain a deeper understanding of the subject of kapa. These two things are almost prerequisites for a study like this one.
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