legend

Lopaka Kapanui
Hawaiʻi’s “Chicken Skin” Storyteller

Cover story by Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawaiʻi

 

Lopaka Kapanui, Hawaiʻi's "Chicken Skin" Storyteller

 

Years ago, Lopaka Kapanui’s mother told him something he says he was “too young and arrogant” to understand.

 

“A lot of work that we do is not about us,” he says his mom told him. “And if we think it’s based on us, we’re fooling ourselves. It’s about helping other people.”

 

Telling ghost stories may be an unusual way of serving one’s community, but it’s this motivation that drives Kapanui in his work as a storyteller of legends, a mantle he’s taken up since the 2003 passing of his mentor, celebrated Oʻahu “chicken skin” storyteller, Glen Grant.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Lopaka Kapanui airs Tuesday, October 29 at 7:30 pm“My job is not just to tell ghost stories and scare people, but also to clear up that misunderstanding of what this is all about, which is really communication,” Kapanui says.

 

Kapanui’s life began in the Honolulu neighborhood of Kalihi, as a malnourished infant living in a station wagon with his mother and four older siblings.

 

“They said I was about the size of a rolled-up newspaper,” Kapanui says.

A family from Waiʻanae adopted the young Kapanui, who continued to battle health issues through his early childhood, to the point where he was hospitalized to flush out his kidneys.

 

My job is not just to tell ghost stories and scare people, but also to clear up that misunderstanding of what this is all about, which is really communication. 

Lopaka Kapanui

 

“I’m a Buddhist, so we believe in karma,” Kapanui says. “I think that somewhere in my past life, I was someone who caused somebody a great deal of suffering and so maybe it was my karma early in my life to go through this.”

 

Kapanui says his childhood home in Wai‘anae was haunted. His first visual experience was when he saw a Japanese boy approach a stand-up oil lamp in the family’s living room and begin licking the oil from it. A Japanese odaisan, or spiritual medium, later advised the family to get rid of the lamp.

 

Kapanui’s lifelong sensitivity to spirits culminated in 1994, when a coworker told him about a Glen Grant ghost tour. “I’m astounded, I’m flabbergasted because the majority of what he was talking about are things I already knew growing up and learned from my mom,” Kapanui says. “But the difference was there was documentation, history and things to back up these claims, so that no one could say, ‘Well, that’s just made-up Hawaiian legends, old wives’ tales.’”

 

So how does Kapanui manage people on his tours who say they don’t believe in the supernatural? “What I always tell them is: Give me a chance to change your mind,” he says. “You don’t have to like it; I would encourage that you at least respect it.”

 


 

PORK ON THE PALI

 

Nuʻuanu Pali It’s a familiar local admonition: don’t bring pork over the Nuʻuanu Pali, the cliff that separates Honolulu and Windward Oʻahu. Lopaka Kapanui breaks down the story behind the story:

 

Legend has it that Pele, the fire goddess, and Kamapuaʻa, the pig demigod, were in a tumultuous relationship. In her rage, Pele unleashed a tidal wave of lava upon Kamapua‘a. After the demigod successfully summoned the rain to hold back the lava, Kamapua‘a and Pele came to an agreement: the lush Windward side of all islands would be Kamapuaʻa’s domain, while the arid Kona sides would belong to Pele. “None shall cross into the other’s territory,” Kapanui explains.

 

So carrying pork from the Windward to the Leeward side of the Nuʻuanu Pali would be symbolically trying to bring Kamapua‘a into Pele’s territory – and Pele won’t have that. “To be more specific, you can bring pork through the H-3, the Wilson and Pali tunnels, but you can’t bring it up that road at the Pali Lookout, that’s coming from the Windward [side] … there’s a road at the Pali Lookout that crosses that meridian.”

 

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Archers to Art and other stories

 

TOP STORY:

 

“Archers to Art”
Students from Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha Public Charter School on Kauaʻi tell the story of how members of their school’s archery program created, through a process of problem solving, an activity that produces wildly colorful, spontaneous works of art. Student archers decided to place balloons onto the traditional archery targets with the intent of having the arrows burst the balloons. The wind caused the balloons to move around, so the students filled them with water to anchor them in place. They then decided to add paint to the water, and laid cardboard down to avoid messing up the surrounding area. Noticing the colorful designs the splatters created, they replaced the cardboard with watercolor paper. Thus was created this innovative genre of painting.

 

ALSO FEATURED:

 

“Waimea’s Rain Rock”
Students from Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy Middle School in the Waimea district of Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of a legendary rain rock which was said to have saved Waimea from a devastating drought.

 

“Student Poet”
Students from Kauaʻi High School in Līhuʻe tell the story of a young poet who uses creativity to battle depression.

 

“Jiu Jitsu Preacher”
Students from Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle School in Pukalani tell the story of a martial arts school that is also a place of worship.

 

“How to Care for an Abandoned Baby Bird”
Students from Īʻao School on Maui show us how to nurse an abandoned baby bird back to health.

 

“Betty Santoki”
Students from Farrington High School on Oʻahu introduce us to a Class of 1962 Farrington graduate who has dedicated her life to keeping Japanese traditions alive in her community.

 

“Suburbia”
A student at H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui shares her inner-most thoughts about becoming a filmmaker in a personal video essay.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by students at Montessori School of Maui in Makawao.

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Lopaka Kapanui

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Lopaka Kapanui, Hawaiʻi's "Chicken Skin" Storyteller

 

“Chicken skin” storyteller Lopaka Kapanui grew up around old Hawaiian legends and ghost stories from his family, and says he’s always been sensitive to spirits. In the 1990s, he was introduced to Oʻahu’s original “chicken skin” storyteller, Glen Grant, and his ghost tours. Since Grant’s passing in 2003, Kapanui has taken up the local ghost story mantle with regular tours, books and community events. Kapanui views his job not just as entertainment, but also as a way to communicate and educate.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

 

 

Secrets of Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Secrets of Her Majesty’s Service

 

Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or MI6 as it is known, is the world’s most legendary spy agency, thanks to the James Bond stories. Set up in 1909 as the Secret Service Bureau, the existence of MI6 was not formally acknowledged until 1994 – which goes a long way toward understanding the modus operandi of this government agency. With unprecedented access to some of the key players in British espionage, this film lifts the veil on the shadowy world of spying, going back in time and behind the scenes to look at some the world’s most calculated and delicately executed operations.

 

 

 

MUSIC VOYAGER
Peru: Lima Original

 

Hosts Alvaro Fernandez and Jacob Edgar meet in Lima, Pera to explore the different sights, sounds, and tastes of one of the most intriguing and exotic countries in South America. In the cosmopolitan capital of Lima they explore the rational Lima, the amazing cuisines that the city is famous for and the music of a Peruvian legend.

 

 

 

SKINDIGENOUS
Prince Ruppert – Nakkita Trimble

 

Nakkita Trimble is the only tattoo artist from the Nisga’a Nation. Along with elders from her community, she hopes to revive the traditional process of tattooing known as gihlee’e. Ts’iksna’aḵs—the tattoos—were usually composed of crests, known as ayukws, and of adaawaḵs, which are stories, legends and history. She plans to teach someone else the art of the Nisga’a tattoing so that more people can reconnect with this ancient practice.

 

 

 

SKINDIGENOUS
Mexico – Samuel Olman

 

The ancient city of Palenque was once a hub of Mayan civilization. For centuries after its decline, it lay hidden under layers of tropical vegetation, until modern archaeologists peeled back the jungle to reveal it to the world in the last century. Today, Palenque is both an cultural centre and a sacred site. It was here that Indigenous artist Samuel Olman chose to set up his traditional Mayan tattoo practice. Living in the heart of the jungle near the ancient ruins, Samuel heads up the Olman Project, which aims to revive the art, knowledge and wisdom of Mesoamerican tattooing, while adapting it to the modern world.

 

 

 

The Wild Ponies of Chincoteague

The Wild Ponies of Chincoteague

 

THE WILD PONIES OF CHINCOTEAGUE follows the annual Chincoteague wild pony swim and auction, as well as one teenager’s journey to buy her first foal. The one-hour documentary begins with a legend. In the 17th century, a Spanish galleon crashed off the Virginia coast. In the hold was a band of ponies. The sinking ship fractured on the shoals, spilling the ponies into the Atlantic Ocean. The ponies swam for their lives and reached the barrier island of Assateague. Their descendants roam free on the island today. Ownership of the herd now belongs to the volunteer fire company on nearby Chincoteague Island. To keep the population in check, the firemen hold an annual auction and sell the foals. Buyers come from across the country and Canada for a chance to bid on a Chincoteague pony. Sabrina Dobbins, a teenager who has struggled with depression, is attending the auction this year to find a pony to help with her recovery. Her dream of owning one of the wild Chincoteague ponies is being realized by a local nonprofit that helps deserving children purchase an auction foal. With her hand held high, the auctioneer barks “Sold!” and, just like that, Sabrina happily becomes the proud owner of Blessing the pony.

 

 

 

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