Kapuni Honored at Canoe Festival on Maui

The International Canoe Festival started in 1998 as a one-night celebration in the streets of Lahaina. The next year it introduced canoe carvers, and today it is an internationally acclaimed event lasting for two weeks. The event runs every May. Artists come from the Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Tahiti, Tonga and Hawai`i. They carve traditional canoes, tiki and drums using ancient and modern tools and offer the public live demonstrations of how they work.

On the last day of the event artists presented their work in a parade on Lahaina’s Front Street. Kapuni displayed his pahu from the top of his own float decorated with tropical flowers.

A few days before the event, Kapuni fell ill and was almost unable to attend it. But with a strong will and help from his son-in-law and apprentice, Victor Lopez, he was able to go to Maui and be a part of the event. Lopez has been learning from Kapuni for about eight years.

Already back on Molokai, asked if he would go back to Maui to attend next year’s festival, the humble master carver just said: “If they want me.”

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