Kapa-maker Tanahy selected as inaugural Master Kumu for Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program

Photo of Tanahy making kapa

Tanahy making kapa

Dalani Tanahy, a noted kapa-maker from Mākaha, will serve as the inaugural Master Kumu for UH West Oʻahu’s Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program, which is highlighting exceptional indigenous artists, craftsmen/craftswomen and others recognized for their excellence by bringing them to campus.

Portrait shot of Dalani Tanahy

Dalani Tanahy

Tanahy will be affiliated with the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies Program during the 2018-2019 academic year, during which time she will share her knowledge by teaching at least one class within the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program. In the Fall 2018 semester, she will teach a 3-credit class, The Arts of Hawaiian Kapa (HPST 498B). Students will learn about the plants involved, make the tools, make dyes, will learn about designs, and will make several pieces of their own kapa.  Enrollment is limited to 12 students.

Master Kumu are indigenous scholars, trained most often in traditional schools of learning – kumu hula, master craftsmen/craftswomen (such as kapa makers, weavers/mat-makers, carvers), and orators. Acknowledged as masters in their area of indigenous expertise, they are sometimes seen as the equivalent to Western PhD holders within the context of traditional Oceanic cultures.

Photo of a piece of kapa by Tanahy

Kapa made by Tanahy

Tanahy is an expert in kapa-making, or the making of bark cloth, and is the proprietor of Kapa Hawaii LLC. She has taught children and adults about kapa in Hawaiʻi’s schools for over 20 years, imparting some of the knowledge she gained from hours studying kapa collections in museums in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere. She has produced kapa clothing for hula hālau and has expanded traditional kapa designs into hotels and other modern settings.

Her work has been exhibited at the British Museum in London, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and the Bishop Museum. In 2015, Tanahy was one of a dozen Native Hawaiian artists who were selected for the first Native Hawaiian Fellowships by the Native Arts and Culture Foundation.  

The Master Kumu program is hoped to broaden the education experience of Hawaiian-Pacific Studies students and UH West Oʻahu’s students, and it will help the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program access more traditional knowledge in our Hawaiian and Pacific Islands communities by involving acknowledged master kumu.  

Images courtesy of Dalani Tanahy and Kapa Hawaii