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'Ili wauke

human history
  • Other Name

    Raw baste from tree bark. (English)

  • Description

    'Ili wauke. Raw baste from tree bark of the wauke (Paper mulberry tree; Broussonetia papyrifera). This is a bundle of fibrous baste that has been scraped from the wauke and had the outer bark removed. Its width shows that it hasn't undergone any beating or fermentation as the fibrous material remains in a tight vertical linear state. There are small holes throughout the piece that show the presence of shoots from the tree.

    Its overall colouring is a natural faded light brown with some water staining. It has hardened as a result of drying out into its form as a bundle.

  • Place
  • Accession Date
  • Other Id

    11353 (ethnology)

  • Department
material, raw, 11353, Photographed by Denise Baynham,… … Read more

Images and documents



  • Credit Line
    Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 11353
  • Public Access Text

    ‘Ili wauke is one of the main fibre sources used for producing kapa in Hawai‘i. Kapa is a form of textile once used solely for dress and other benefits in Ancient Hawai’i before the introduction of cotton. ‘Ili wauke is the raw baste of the wauke. It can be found growing in a mala wauke. The context of a mala wauke is a garden that contains ones needs to fulfil the purpose of making kapa. A mala wauke grows wauke, but also the dye plants necessary for decorating kapa.

    Cultivating the wauke for kapa can take up to two years or less. Small branches along the stem are carefully tended to prevent holes on the kapa. Once the stem has reached its desired diametre and length, a pahi (knife) can be used to cut the stem and pull away the outer bark. A wa‘u (scraper) can be used to separate and clean the outer bark revealing ‘ili wauke (raw baste from tree bark).

    The God of Hawaiian Kapa: Maikohā

    This mo‘olelo portrays how the wauke (Paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera) and its intentions grew in Hawai‘i.

    The story of the Hawaiian God of Kapa: Maikohā, portrays how the wauke (Paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera) and its intentions grew:

    “As Maikohā lay dying, he gave this command to his daughters: “When I am dead take me to the edge of the stream and bury me there. A tree will grow from my grave whose outer bark will furnish kihei (shawl), pā‘ū (skirt), malo (loin cloth) and other benefits (pono) for you two”

    His daughters obeyed his commands, and a tree did grow. That was the wauke, the paper mulberry. When the daughters saw it, they fetched it and worked it, beating the bark into cloth, skirts, and loin cloths. The sap flowed out, and wauke grew along the stream as far as the sea at Kīkīhale. That is how wauke spread in Hawai’i nei” (S.M.Kamakau. “Tales and Traditions of the People of Old|Nā Mo‘olelo a ka Po‘e Kahiko.”1991.p.14)

    Kapa is primarily made from wauke and requires a number of tools and natural dyes to create.

    Lauhuki and La‘ahana: The daughters of Maikohā

    Compared to other island nations who produce bark cloth, Hawaiian kapa is uniquely defined by the various stages of beating, fermenting and watermarking. The daughters of Maikōha have a historic influence on how the wauke was processed to become kapa. Lauhuki taught the art of beating the ‘ili wauke and her sister La‘ahana taught the process of watermarking and use of ‘ohe kāpala (Bamboo dye stamp) to decorate the kapa. Through their teachings they have become ‘aumakua - ancestral craft gods.

    Auckland Museum’s Pacific Collection currently holds over thirty three objects attributed to kapa. Like the flow of the wauke sap, there are many branches in producing kapa. This can be fibre sourcing, fibre preparation and fermentation, beating, decorative technique and most significantly: the fashioning of the maker or wearers intentions.

    We would like to give thanks to the Hawaiian knowledge holders who generously shared their mana'o and sources surrounding the significance of kapa. Additionally, we would like to honour the ‘aumakua, who gifted kapa to Hawai‘i nei.


    • M.Beckwith, ‘Hawaiian Mythology’. U H Press. 1970.

    • T.R.Hiroa, ‘Arts and Crafts of Hawaii’. Bishop Museum Press. 1957.

    • S.M.Kamakau, ‘Tails and Traditions of the People of Old|Nā Mo‘olelo a ka Po‘e Kahiko’. Bishop Museum Press. 1991.

    • S.Kooijman, ‘Tapa in Polynesia’. Bishop Museum Press. 1972.

    • W.T.Brigham. “Ka Hana Kapa” Memoirs of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Polynesian Ethnology and Natural History. 1911.

    • Personal comms. Kumu Auli`i Mitchell and Kumu Keonilei Leali'ifano. 07.03.2018


    • ‘Ili wauke (raw baste from tree bark)

    • Pahi (knife)

    • wa‘u (scraper)

    • wauke (paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera)

    • kihei (shawl)

    • pā‘ū (skirt)

    • malo (loin cloth)

    • pono (benefits)

    • 'ohe kāpala (bamboo stamp)

    • mo‘olelo (story)

  • Cultural Origin
  • Primary Maker

     Unknown (Maker)

  • Place
  • Date
    Pre 1894
  • Technique
  • Media/Materials
  • Measurement Reading



  • Subject Category
  • Classification
  • Last Update
    18 Jul 2018
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