By Tapa Miloliʻi Andrade, Class of 2022 Kanuikapono Public Charter School
“E hōʻike mai ana ka lāʻau ke kia manu; The stick of the birdcatcher will tell.”
This ʻōlelo noʻeau encourages me to produce my best in everything I’m doing. It means, “We know how successful one is by what he produces.” I believe in starting small and working my way up as I learn different hana noʻeau.
In middle school, I learned how to make lei poʻo using techniques like haku and wili. In turn, I helped younger students at Kanuikapono, where I have attended school since kindergarten, to learn how to make lei for hula performances and special events. In ninth grade, on a first trip to the library, I found a book on making lei hulu. I borrowed it and started teaching myself how to make them with help from a few of my aunties and a kumu from school.
This past summer, I took on a greater challenge when I created a lapaʻiki (small drum) at a workshop taught by Kumu Hula Aua of Hilo. I learned the full process of making a pahu lapaʻiki including sanding, carving, and lashing. I also learned hula and oli that use the lapaʻiki. This experience inspired me to create a pahu heiau from start to finish.
I began by harvesting the stump of the niu which I put under my house for two months to dry.
When it was ready, I trimmed the edges of the stump to make it flush and even so that it would sit flat. I drilled and carved out the center of the pahu until it was deep like a giant bowl. I ground it until it was smooth and flat, then I drilled out the bottom to form a space to make the ʻōpū of the drum to improve the sound. I created a stencil design for the bottom of the pahu, transferred it to the pahu, and then chiseled out the design. After making the ʻōpū and sanding everything, I prepared the skin, making puka to string the pahu. After oiling the pahu it was pau.
When I work, the time is peaceful and stress-free. Although there were a number of steps to create all the pahu, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
Keeping the ʻōlelo noʻeau, “e hō’ike mai ana ka lā’au ke kia manu” in my thoughts as I worked through the process helped me produce my best work. Now that I have finished the pahu heiau, I want it to reflect all the mana and hard work I put into making it. I hope to be able to use the pahu now to perpetuate traditional practices of hula, oli, and hana noʻeau.
A life lesson I’ve learned from attending Kanuikapono is that if you want to learn something there is always someone who can help you get resources; you just have to be able to ask and put in the work to show you want to learn.
Before teaching, most kūpuna simply want to make sure that you will mālama the tradition and not be kāpulu when learning or doing it. I am very thankful that my mom chose this school for me for kindergarten and supported my decision when I wanted to stay because it has taught me more than I ever would have learned in a regular public school. These lessons will help me to keep Hawaiian traditions alive and pass them down to future generations.
Tapa Miloliʻi Andrade is from Wailua and is a 2022 graduate of Kanuikapono Public Charter School in Anahola on Kauaʻi.