Tuesdays at Bishop Museum



My mind has become very dull. I need to challenge it. By dull, I mean giving children’s tours at Bishop museum has made me complacent. Giving adult tours always keeps me on my toes.

Fridays at Bishop have an abundance of docents and none want to give up their public tours. Not many want to do the children’s tours either. So when the museum re-opened their doors on Tuesdays I jumped at the chance. I knew I would once again be able to do regular adult, public tours.

After the museum had closed it’s doors on Tuesdays, for financial reasons, a way was found to once again welcome the public back that week day.

Kids aren’t my thing. As I had said my brain was starting to atrophy having to talk down to them. When I did get to substitute on Fridays and do adults I was finding I was having a hard time describing artifacts and culture in a more mature way.

Now having started in the last part of 2015 on Tuesdays I am once again researching and trying to switch my tours up to a more interesting subject to keep adults interested. I am not complaining. I love research but the funny thing is I’ve discovered I miss the kids. So starting the first of January we started booking them once again now on Tuesdays.

Guess who is able to do both children and adults? Me! With mixed feelings I have started back with the kids with the provision that I still get to do one public tour each week along with the kids. My brain is being challenged. I do realize now that it takes just as much work to keep the kids interested as it does adults.

Today on my children’s and adult tours I stopped to talk about the Hale Pili. I always ask the children what they think this particular Hale (house) was used for. You can read about it in this past post https://kareninhonolulu.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=524&action=edit

Today with the adults it was interesting as they asked questions I was not prepared for.


It was a simple question and one that I could not answer. So I had to do research. Someone had asked me where did the adult children who married go when they needed their own houses. Hmmm. Well I knew families did stay together but just how?

What I found was they added on a hale or house in the compound where the parents lived with other families or they built a large Hale to accommodate everyone.  I found this quote from the book ” Arts and Crafts of Hawaii” on page 77,  amusing. “…some persons had no houses but lived on the hospitality of others,” and he refers to such person contemptuously as “o-kea-ili-mai (drift gravel) and “uni-pehiiole” (stone to throw at a rat).” Even back then they had the problems with unwanted guest.

On further research I found hales had one door. It was a very low door so that you had to crawl into the sleeping house. This had a purpose. When winds would blow it helped to keep them from wafting through the dwelling. Also in the middle of the sleeping hale was a small pit to keep a fire burning throughout the night. Though it helped to heat the area its main purpose was to keep spirits that roamed during the night out of the house.

There were many common areas too that everyone shared so it was just a matter of one or two houses being needed for sleeping. Cooking was done by the men, women ate together with the very young children in their own hale, and men ate together in theirs. They had hales for fishing equipment, working on household items such as kapa, baskets and mats.

I never thought about this but it makes sense. They did not have problems with bugs or pest coming into the sleeping hale at night because they did not have any. It was not until the Europeans and whalers started to arrive bringing pest and illnesses with them.

The larger introduced animals also meant big problems as they started to eat the grass off of the Hawaiian’s dwellings! They also ate the grasses and leaves used to make the hales. It gave new meaning to being eaten out of house and home.

I am so happy to be back to the public tours and having this one simple question has given me much to add to my bag of tricks so to speak. I know the kids will really enjoy hearing about the cows eating the houses. Oh those kids they laugh at the darnedest things.

Information about the Hales comes from the book “Hawaiian Culture”page 198-201

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I must be getting very old. Not because I just had a birthday. Yes, there is no rest for the wicked as I continually have birthdays. I’m getting old because I am actually beginning to enjoy giving tours to the little kids. They have warn me down. They have won me over and I actually prefer them now to giving the adult tours. It must have been that group hug that I got from all of the kids in  a past tour. I actually felt energized after that.

I’ve come a long way since the time when I was giving a tour to pre-schoolers. I was talking about the Lei made of human hair and a whale’s tooth only to look down and see all of the kids were watching their friends two floors below and not a one was listening to me. (See photo below)

P1000025  You have to be quite tricky and interesting to compete with Kamohoalii, the shark god who accompanied Pele from Tahiti to Hawaii.

  I have found that it is much more of a challenge and takes quite a bit of studying to find information that will keep their attention. Last week I did a tour for a Hawaiian Immersion school. Normally they are done by Hawaiian speaking guides but scheduling did not allow for that.

Not having enough time that week to learn Hawaiian I hoped that they would forgive me when I told them that my grandson also went to a Hawaiian Immersion School here on Oahu. They were visiting from the outer islands. The teacher said with a big smile, maikaʻi (good, great, fine, etc.) So I felt I was on firmer ground.

DSCN1415Kahili just to the left of the feathered cape

Going into our Kahili room where we have the portraits of the Alii from King Kamehameha to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, the children started calling out the names of each alii and their accomplishments. I was left with my mouth open. What were they saying? Did I dare try to add to it? They were giving me the tour.

Turning to the teacher I asked, do you want me to explain about the Kahili? He smiled and said they already knew all that. I was so disappointed as they already knew all about the little prince, Albert Edward, who was my favorite to talk about, I couldn’t even tell them how the Kahili were put together. What a disappointing tour guide I was turning out to be. I grasped at one last tidbit of trivia.

“Do they know about his Kahili?” I asked hopefully. No they donʻt. Happily I took them over to the feather standard shaped like a flower bud and went on to explain how  Prince Albert’s mother, Queen Emma,  had commissioned it to signify the child died like a flower that never had a chance to bloom.

As we left the room I wondered how many more rabbits could I pull out of my hat. When we were almost done with the tour and after not being able to really tell them anything new the last place I took them to was the replica that we have of the first heiau ever built in Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is called Wahaʻula.

The first Heiau built in Hawaii in the 13 century in Puna Hawaii

The first Heiau built in Hawaii in the 13 century in Puna Hawaii, Wahaʻula

The kids gathered around the  Heiau and I started to talk when all of a sudden the teacher speaking in Hawaiian talked to the kids for well over a minute. I asked him, fully expecting it, if he had just told them about Wahaʻula. To my surprise he said “I told them to pay attention to what you were saying.” I breathed a sigh and went on.

I was proud of the kids even though they didnʻt need me along. They were well versed in their culture. They knew their roots. Like Charles Bishop had intended these children were coming to the museum with a full knowledge of their ancestors and seeing first hand what their kupuna  (elders) had accomplished.






With point and shoot in hand these are what I captured the rest of the night. Maybe it’s not so much that these photos are blurry but I’m disappointed that I could not capture the essence of the dance. That has nothing to do with the camera it only has to do with me. Does that have to be inborn? Or maybe I have to do more reading and shooting. I’m sure I have to do more what ever it is.


As the dancers enter the stage part of how they approach is judged also. They will enter like the girls on the right then dance on to the stage in stages.


I love to capture  the hair and skirts as they swish in the same movement. Many think of the ancient Hawaiian women with their log hair down their back but their was a time during Capt. Cooks visit that the women actually cut their hair very short and bleached it in the front. How they bleached it I don’t know but it was quite stunning. We have drawings of the women at the Bishop Museum.


Withe such a large group it is very hard to manage a dance and have it totally synchronized. DSCN1939

When the men enter the stage the house gets uproarious and hoots and clapping, whistling and energy rises. Even though the patterns on the costumes may seem too modern there are actual Kapa clothing in our displays at the muse with this pattern. There are also sketches of ancient Hawaiian dancers with this exact style being worn as the men dance. Kapa clothing was quite colorful contrary to what many people thing of.


This move is not as easy as it looks and many hours goes into practicing this in order to be able to carry it out flawlessly.


All the greenery you see here is made by the dancers. I know that some halaus even go into the mountains to pick all of the vegetation that they wear.


Here the kumu, I believe she is the gray haired lady, and her group do the chanting and accompaniment for the men.DSCN1925

Again I am not sure exactly what period this is because it definitely has the influence of the missionaries which does not seem kahiko to me. But then again it is the 50th anniversary so I am not sure what they were trying to portray here as kahiko.


This reminds me of the Sumo outfits I’ve seen. Even the hair. I so wish I had the program to be able to tell what this represented.DSCN1903

This is my grandson’s kumu and the above photo shows her men dancing.


The costumes can be very elaborate and costly. I’ve heard that you might have to pay around 1500 in cost just to be in one of these competitions. This particular competition is  non-profit.


I love the ankle and hair pieces along with the costuming.


This costuming is more what I think of the Kahiko style and of course the men always bring the house down when they dance. It is really high energy.


Again they are performing a difficult move but with their long hair hanging down in back I think it is so beautiful.DSCN1864

The ti leaf draped over the skirts just makes the whole look.






This halau is from Oakland California. Their kumu in not quite traditional but oh these guys were great. I would love to see them again. People went wild when they danced. Unfortunately they didn’t eve place.


The kumu for the above men is in sunglasses. Perhaps that is part of what takes marks away from their performance. I don’t know as it certainly wouldn’t be considered traditional. But as I think back to all of the Hula I have seen through the years all of it has changed what was traditional then is rarely even seen today.DSCN1843

These were the drums he used. I don’t know what they are made from. The drums we have at the museum are made from coconut and the top is stretched with sharkskin.


Again some blurred photos for your enjoyment 🙂DSCN1839




I had taken over 200 that night and these were the only ones that turned out half way decent. On part 4 I will tour the island a little bit visiting the birthplace of my kids grandparents.


Kapa Clothing in Old Hawaii

Kapa cloth as displayed at Bishop Museum

When the temperatures drop here in the islands, and they do drop, I can go to my closet and pull out any warm item to put on. At night while walking the dogs I can look up into the cold, clear, crisp sky and pull the hood of my sweatshirt around my neck.

On the Island of Hawaii, the one called the Big Island the temperatures can drop drastically.  The ancient Hawaiians had  houses  made of grass, well made yes, but still when temperatures drop into the 40’s bringing wind and rain during the winter, you certainly need clothing to keep you warm.

Not being able to run to Wal Mart to get warm pants for the kids, nor sheer  sheep as they were non existent, what did the Hawaiians use?

Trees! Can you imagine trying to keep your large family warm with clothing made from trees? This was the only option and the Hawaiians did it well. It was a family concern and everyone played their part.

The tree that was favored for the clothing was called Wauke or paper Mulberry as is more commonly known elsewhere. The men planted it in groves. The children helped to pluck off any shoots from the trunk to keep it from branching.

Several pieces of Kapa would have to be felted together to make this size

When the tree reached 6 to 12 feet in height or an inch in diameter, it was cut down and then the trunks were brought to the waiting women. They would then cut open the outer bark with an implement made from a sharks tooth, remove the inner bark and flatten it. This they did by coiling it inside out.

Once flat they would then scrape off any remaining outer bark or they may choose to soak the fiber and remove it that way.

To get the fibers to felt together they would pound them on a stone while one of the young girls would continue to supply water from a stream for their mother to sprinkle while pounding. Then the fiber was rolled into coils and soaked for several days.

Once the soaking was done the fibers were laid flat and piled in mounds and dampened again and weighed down with stones to soften the fiber further.

Then they were pounded out one last time on a wooden anvil with a four sided wooden beater. The deep groove of one side was used first. The lesser grooves were then used and last the side with the patterns were pounded in.

Bamboo carved with various designs to put into the Kapa interspersed between Kapa beaters

After the pounding was done which took a day, the kapa was then laid out to dry. It then could be dyed or a designe could be printed on it. I’ve been told that not all of it was decorated. And who could blame the mother with a tribe of kids to clothe if she didn’t feel like going that extra step.

A strip of Kapa laying on a carved wooden Anvil where the Kapa was pounded

The Kapa could be oiled with Kukui nut oil to make it water repellent or sometimes it was embossed to give it extra strength.

Embossed Kapa (click on photo for closer look)

Kapa was used as shawls, bedspreads, (several on a bed) wrap babies in, malos for the men to wear or skirts called pau or used as clothing warn in hula. Colors were many. There was pink, red, yellow, black, green, and pale blue. These were taken from a variety of plants and trees.

Some of the Colors and Designs of Ancient Kapa

I’ve been asked many times what does the Kapa feel like? We used to have a piece that was over 100 years old that we used for our tours. It was as soft as cheesecloth and just the fact that it was that old attest to it’s durability.

There were other ways of staying warm I’m sure among them Ti leaf capes and fires and I really don’t know what else but the beauty and funcionality of this cloth speaks to the talents of the ancient kanaka maoli.

If you would like to read a little more on the making of Kapa, I found a nice site called Kapa Making and processing please check it out.

If you would like to read an informative little boon on Kapa I got some of my information from “The Ancient Hawaiians” by Margaret Titcomb.  If you would like to see the real artifact please stop by Bishop Museum.

I am always open to added information and if you have any corrections or antidotes I’d be happy to hear from you.

Lion Dance and Hawaiian Blessings

On Saturday, the 15th Of January our community dedicated the new community center at the Kunia park.

In Hawaii it is customary to have a Hawaiian blessing and, more often then not, a Chinese Lion Dance. So many in the area showed up for the festivities and quite a banquet of food. Here are some of the highlights from that day.

The Kahu (minister) and his sons

The Kahu who is draped in a Maile lei along with his sons gave the blessing.  The Maile  is one of the oldest form of lei. It has a wonderful light fragrant smell that last for days. It is draped around the neck horseshoe fashon. It is worn quite often by hula dancers. The leaf is a member of the periwinkle family.

Blessing with ti leaf and water

Before anyone can go into the new center the Kahu will sprinkle water around the area and inside of the center with a ti leaf. Ti leaves have been used from ancient times for wrapping food,  used as a dish, or even warmed and put on the forehead to help dispel a headache. They even made rain capes from them because of its ability to resist water.

But in the instance of the blessing the ancient Hawaiians used Ti to attract the good and stave off the bad. You will often see fans at a football game waving the ti leaf to bring good luck to their team.

The Lion (double click on photo to see inside the lions mouth)

The biggest attraction at any of these events is the Lion dance. Young children or young adults perform under these Lion costumes.

Waiting to perform

The lion begins to roar

The Cymbals clash

The drums begin to beat

With the loud clashing and drumming the lion is given his cue as to where and how to move

The lions approach the people. As the lion comes close he will open his mouth and the people will feed it money. This is thought to bring good luck and also helps out the club who is giving the dance.

There are many different types of moves that the Lion Makes. Some dances are very rigorous and include high kicks, jumps and dips.

After the blessing and the dance we all went into the new center. There was quite a buffet set up with different types of sushi, chicken, hot dogs, rice, noodles, pot stickers, lumpia and all types of desserts.

Everyone had a great time. I even ended up volunteering to serve on a committee to set up craft classes.

If you would like to read more about the maile lei you can go to this site.http://www.aloha-hawaii.com/hawaii/maile/

I’ve also added this site for an interesting back ground on how the lion dance got started here in Hawaii and back ground on the marshal art. Lion Dance