LIHUE — Three Hawaiian items purchased at a Paris auction were recently donated to island museums on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui.
Kauai Museum received an ipu wai, which is believed to be a 1700’s water gourd from Niihau.
Chucky Boy Chock, executive director of Kauai Museum, said museum docents often use the analogy of today’s Hydroflask to explain the use and function of the ipu wai to visitors.
“This particular ipu wai is unusual and a bit intriguing,” Chock said. “Typically ipu from Niihau, known as ipu pawehe, were decorated. This item is not decorated and was likely used daily while gathering makaloa (sedge) or picking shells or hunting for puaa (wild boars).”
Wayne James Rapozo, formerly of Kauai and now living in London, purchased the three items from the Rainer Werner Bock collection in an auction by Aquettes Auction House in Paris.
He said he bought the ipu wai in near perfect condition. The owner of the Aquettes Auction Houses told him, “Elle est tres jolie” (she is very beautiful) when he made the final bid.
“After nearly three centuries, I’m very happy that these items can be displayed in the appropriate places for the public’s enjoyment instead of sitting in private collections or in storage,” Rapozo said.
Rapozo said these gifts are also being made as part of the Rapozo family’s contemporary kuleana to honor their ancestors who came to the islands and gained citizenship under the kingdom of Hawaii during the reign of King David Kalakaua.
“My great-great granduncle, Manuel Rapozo, and great-great-grandfather, Francisco Rapozo, were able to secure a few kuleana parcels which is the basis for their descendants becoming kamaaina,” Rapozo said. “Today, we make these gifts for public enjoyment on behalf of our family and especially for the Rapozo keiki as part of a living cultural legacy.”
He said that while he had mixed feelings about the auction of Hawaiian items, “I like the notion that these artifacts are valued as cultural and artistic treasures and help to educate and showcase the wit, craft and beauty of Hawaiian civilization.”
Lyman Museum in Hilo received a moa pahee or sliding dart for Makahiki games.
“This moa pahe’e is a rare example of a game dart in excellent condition surviving in modern times,” Rapozo said.
Lynn Elia, registrar and collections manager at Lyman Museum, said this item was on a priority list for potential artifacts needed in their new Island Heritage Gallery.
“Artifacts such as these are an uncommon donation and are just as difficult to locate,” Elia said. “We had already decided to commission a modern replica when Wayne contacted the museum in April. At first, we thought Wayne’s call was a prank, but we’re so grateful that Wayne was genuine in his intention to locate and donate this item to Lyman Museum.”
Bailey House Museum in Wailuku received a Hawaiian bowl shaped as a goblet.
“This goblet is done with the skill and wit of traditional wood craftsmanship, but with the twist that it was made to fit the styles Hawaiian craftsmen saw from the early Missionaries,” Rapozo said. “The artifact is also symbolic of changing times in Hawaii. And while the item needs more study, it’s reasonable to think this may have also been used as a chalice for wine in early Christian services.”