Kumu Micah shares tradition behind Dezigns by Kamohoali’i clothing

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Kumu Micah follows the traditions of Maikoha, one of the akua of kapa. In the story, Maikoha notices that his people did not have clothes, and suffered during the cold weather. As he grew weaker, he told his daughters to bury him next to the river and look out for a tree that grows out of his body and call it wauke. He gave them strict instructions on how to use the tree to make clothing for the villagers. This is the beginning of the Hawaiian tradition of kapa.

Stage one is to let the wauke grow. The larger the tree, the more kapa it produces. Once the tree is big enough, Kumu Micah cuts the branches off and begins separating the inner bark from the useful outer bark. Kumu Micah uses a shark tooth knife to separate the two layers. He then takes the outer layer, rolls it into a bundle, and soaks it in salt water to make the material softer.

The second stage starts once the material is soft enough. The bark is pounded to combine the pieces together and soften the material. “That whole process is taking out that real woody feeling and making it more like fabric. It can come soft like cotton and even silk if you’re pounding it correctly,” says Kumu Micah. It’s a long process and has been a tradition in Kumu Micah’s family for a long time.

The final stage of the kapa process is printing and dying. Kumu Micah says that Hawaii has beautiful shades of dirt, so he uses a mixture of salt water and dirt to create the dyes. Once the material has dried, he continues to add more layers until the desired color is achieved. After, he uses the ‘ohe kapala to stamp the unique designs onto the material. “We like to tell a story with the pieces that we have. They all tell beautiful stories. When you start to line up all of the stamps, they really paint a beautiful picture,” he says.

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