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" You have to use what you've got "

- Dalani Tanahy







by Carol Chang; photos by Oliver Koning

To watch a skilled Hawaiian kapa artist like Dalani Tanahy is akin to seeing a chef concoct a favorite dish: "Take the bark, shred it and boil it for a week," she might tell her students, who hang on every word.

"Kapa is cloth made from a tree, and it's all its many components and its rarity that keep me interested," explains the Makaha resident, who left her job teaching kapa at Ka'ala Farms to plunge completely into the ancient art. That means growing her own wauke (paper mulberry) trees for the precious bark, making her own tools to shape it into cloth and experimenting with dyes from nature to decorate it for display or practical use. "I'm like a mad scientist in the kitchen," she adds, referring to the endless search throughout the Islands for just the right colors or hues to adorn the delicate fabric she creates. "You have to use what you've got" is her motto. Read more.