|Moana K.M. Eisele, a Hawaiian community scholar, is using a traditional tool, |
i'e kuku, to beat bast fiber from the inner bark of the māmaki, a small Hawaiian tree,
as research into long forgotten techniques to create Hawaiian capa (bark cloth)
Bark cloth was traditionally made and used for a variety of purposes in many Pacific cultures,
most notably in ceremonies and rituals. Both the material available (various plants such as the paper mulberry, breadfruit, and banyan) and the mode of production varied from region to region. The Smithsonian’s collection of bark cloth is large, with important and unique pieces from the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), the U.S.’s first international scientific survey. The squadron of ships, under Captain Charles Wilkes, circumnavigated the globe, surveyed and charted nearly 300 islands of the Pacific, mapped 800 miles of the coast of Oregon, and confirmed the existence of Antarctica as a continent. The thousands of ethnological objects and botanical and zoological specimens were brought back to the U.S. by the Expedition’s team of scientists and are among the founding collections of the Smithsonian.
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