He Ho’ala Ana / An Awakening: 
Kapa by Marie McDonald

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November 20, 2008 - January 18, 2009
The Textile Gallery (22)

Exhibition Overview

This exhibition of Marie McDonald’s contemporary kapa made with traditional dyes and techniques, the result of years of research, honors a meaningful, yet often unsung, artform. The master kapa maker spent most of her childhood on Moloka`i and is descended from families of two great cultural traditions: on her mother’s side, the Mahoe line of Hawaiian chiefs; on her father’s side, the distinguished Adams family of New England. After earning her degree in art from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, she returned to Hawai‘i where she worked for the City and County of Honolulu for 23 years, then began another career as an art teacher in public schools.

In 1990, she was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship as a Hawaiian lei maker. Her 1985 book Ka Lei: The Leis of Hawaii is the authoritative source on the subject. Another masterpiece is Na Lei Makamae, which she co-authored with Paul Weissich, director emeritus of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens. Besides being an artist, author and teacher, the 82-year-old McDonald is also a lecturer, researcher, farmer, businesswoman and practitioner. 

At her Hawaiian Homestead Farm at the foot of the Kohala Mountains, you walk amongst podocarpus, agaves, succulents, lavender, rosemary, and snapdragons, to name just a few plants. Clustered in a corner is her famous patch of wauke, commonly known as paper mulberry, which she beats daily into kapa. Each layered piece of kapa retains the memory of her beaters, leaving behind her highly textured signature watermarks. Also growing on her farm are dye plants, from which she picks flowers, leaves, berries, roots and bark and processes them using recipes only she knows. Patterns in undulating repetition gently flow from edge to edge. This modern approach to a time-honored tradition is evident and one can easily see where all her inspiration, creativity, and dreams are made…in perfect harmony with the place she named Honopua, or “Flower Place.”