Tears flowed down Aletha Kaohi’s cheeks while she held a pair of scissors to the tapa.
“The voice kept encouraging, ‘Cut. Cut. Cut,’” Kaohi said. “But the tears didn’t stop and I finally cut the piece which was presented to the Endeavour during its visit here in November 1999. That piece is now part of the Endeavour’s collection.”
The tapa, a remnant from the Endeavour’s piece, holds a place in Kaohi’s purse.
“This tapa, part of a five-sheet set, was used to wrap King Kaumualii’s child,” said Kaohi, a sixth-generation descendant by marriage. “It was last used to wrap my father when he was born.”
During a trip to Maui, Kaohi fell ill, a victim of twisted intestines.
While in the hospital, a voice — could it have been the same one who guided her with the Endeavour project — spoke to her about a “tool” she had in her purse.
Rummaging through the bag in her illness, she fished out a bag of Hawaiian salt and the remnant piece of tapa.
“Which one,” she pondered. “I just got back from Oklahoma for a presentation and the salt was part of that. And, there was the tapa.”
She asked Stanley Lum to place it on her forehead, the closest point to where she is connected to her ancestors, and pray.
In her stupor, Kaohi said she heard voices talking, discussing, and when everything was clear, the intestines had “miraculously” untwisted.
This started her on a journey to raise awareness about King Kaumualii, best known as the last reigning monarch for Kauai, the effort giving rise to the Friends of King Kaumualii in 2004 with the purpose of honoring the last king of Kauai and perpetuate the king and Kauai’s history.
“The tapa dates to after 1810 when King Kaumualii ceded Kauai to King Kamehameha to avoid bloodshed from his people,” Kaohi said. “It was after he ceded the island that he found a girl with whom he established a relationship and a child was born.”
This child, named Kainoahou, or translated to mean “the sea is free” because Kaumualii did not have to watch the sea for invading forces, was wrapped in the tapa which has been handed down through Kaohi’s lineage through marriage.
The tapa will be on display when Kaohi and the Friends of Kaumualii host the Festival of Stars, “Na Mele O Kaumualii,” and Flavors of Waimea from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Hofgaard Park across from Ishihara Market and the First Hawaiian Bank.
“This is the second year we’re holding this event centered around King Kaumualii,” Kaohi said. “Last year, we had eight entries in the songwriting contest about Kaumualii. One of them resulted in the production of a three-act play which was presented in February.”
Kaohi said this year, there are seven students from Kula Aupuni Niihau A Kahelelani Aloha (KANAKA) Public Charter School who wrote songs under the direction of kumu Dana “Kauaiki” Yadao and will perform them Saturday.
It is not a competition, Kaohi said.
“Music is always a nice way to learn about history and is enjoyable for both children and adults. King Kaumualii was loved by his people, and by supporting the community, we continue this tradition,” she said.
There will be craft booths, but no food booths. Instead, she encourages people to come early and enjoy the weekend specials created by Waimea town food outlets while enjoying a self-guided walking tour of the town utilizing the storyboards along Kaumualii Highway (named after the King), returning to Hofgaard Park to enjoy the mele.
“We are partners in this endeavor,” Kaohi said. “A ohe hana nui ke alu ia — no task is too big when done together by all.”