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human history
  • Other Name

    hohoa (Hawaiian)

    Barkcloth beater (English)

  • Description

    Hohoa. Barkcloth beater. Carved from lā‘au (wood) into a long rounded club shape, reduced to a short grip at base. The hohoa is used in the first stage of beating ili wauke (baste from the paper mulberry tree) previously soaked and fermented in water to eventually make kapa (bark cloth). The soaked ili wauke would be beaten atop a smooth stone referred to as pōhaku-o-Kāne. The hohoa is round in cross-section, widest towards the centre and free from decoration.

    There are fine surface cracks visible in the wood and the natural grain showing through. A hole is perforated at the centre of the butt. It is possible this the lā‘au for this hohoa was sourced from ōhi‘a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha).

  • Place
  • Accession Date
  • Other Id

    11365 (ethnology)

  • Department
Hohoa, 11365, Photographed by Denise Baynham, digital, 20… … Read more

Images and documents



  • Credit Line
    Collection of Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 11365
  • Public Access Text

    Kapa (Bark cloth) is a form of textile once used solely for dress and other benefits in Ancient Hawai’i before the introduction of cotton. When it comes to beating the ‘ili wauke (raw baste from tree bark), the hohōna (rounded beater) is the first to make contact with the ‘ili wauke. This is made of lā‘au (hard wood) and features a handle with a club-like end. It’s entirety is smooth in surface.

    After soaking the ‘ili wauke it would be laid upon a large pōhaku (smooth stone), maybe scraped with ‘iwi (shell scraper) or a wa’u (bone scraper) and then beaten with a hohōna until dry. This is called the mo'o mo'o (ready for fermenting) stage. The continuous beating form the hohōna stresses the ‘ili wauke by spreading and flexing the fibres in preparation for mo'o mo'o.

    The God of Hawaiian Kapa: Maikohā

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

    “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”

    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 (bone scraper)

    • wauke (paper mulberry; Broussonetia papyrifera)

    • kihei (shawl)

    • pā‘ū (skirt)

    • malo (loin cloth)

    • pono (benefits)

    • ‘ohe kāpala (bamboo dye stamp)

    • mo‘olelo (story)

  • Cultural Origin
  • Primary Maker

     Unknown (Maker)

  • Place
  • Date
    Pre 1894
  • Technique
  • Signature and Marks

    EX HAWAII 11365



  • Media
  • Measurement Reading




  • Subject Category
  • Classification
  • Last Update
    25 Jul 2023

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