The Science and Culture of Art - Maui the Kitemaker

Lesson 5 - Kapa, Hawaiian Super Cloth!: What does Kapa look like under a Microscope?


People learned to let nature help them do their work, such as fermentation in kapa making. By letting the kapa ferment in water over time, the kapa was not only stronger but also much finer and softer then when it wasn’t fermented, making it much more comfortable to wear than tapa.


Students will draw and describe different old (historic) and new (contemporary) fabrics as seen under a microscope. Are they different? If so, how? If not, what are their similarities?


Alternatively, students can complete this activity with a magnifying glass.



Students will draw, compare and contrast the various stages of kapa production under magnification: i.e., wauke bark; first beating; the final product after fermentation; and water marking. Hawaiian kapa is made using various processes, making it known as one of the strongest bark cloths in the world.


Students will draw, describe and compare Hawaiian kapa with Tongan tapa.


Students will then draw, describe and compare two fabrics of Hawaii, kapa and maka moena (woven matt), with modern materials, under the microscope.