Purple Moon Design

Creative Works by Seattle Artist Stewart Wong

Exploring My Heritage through Kapa

Artist Statement

Kapa, also known as bark cloth, is a traditional Hawaiian textile made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree (Wauke in Hawaiian) 1. I grew up with kapa in my Hawaiian homeland. In 2023 I returned home to Oahu and learned how to make kapa from the local Wauke and also learned the tools used to produce it. I’ve spent the past year working in my studio experimenting and honing my skills and have shared my experience with the community in open studios at the Burke Museum.

I’ve found working with kapa to be a transformative experience. The process is meditative and requires patience, research, and experience. Kapa is a holistic and therapeutic experience demanding a clear mind and positive thinking. When I'm not feeling right, physically or spiritually, working with kapa transforms me. My condition, my life force, my mana as we call it in Hawai'i, reenergizes. This is why I use the term holistic. The life of the Wauke is the embodiment of all life. The plants' life force fills me as I touch it, hold it, transform it.

Exploring and working with kapa has renewed my appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of my homeland, Hawai'i, and the importance of preserving traditional art forms. It is my way of staying connected to my ethnic and cultural heritage and to the spiritual world of the Hawaiian people and my ancestry; it provides me with a deep connection to the natural world.

My work is a celebration of the beauty and resilience of Hawaiian culture, inspired in a contemporary context. I hope to inspire others to connect with their own cultural heritage through art.


In 2024, this project is supported, in part, by a CityArtist grant from Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.
In 2023/24 this project is supported, in part, by an Arts Projects grant from 4Culture.