spirit

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.”

 

 

 

 

Easy Yoga: The Secret to Strength and Balance with Peggy Cappy

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Honoring the Memory
of Mrs. Watanabe Every Day

 

CEO Message

 

Trained in portraiture, the artist uses a scaffold to get close to the wall.A talented Honolulu-based artist who’s known for creating large-scale outdoor murals was tapped to help PBS Hawai‘i honor a beloved donor, the late math teacher Karen Watanabe.

 

In retirement, Mrs. Watanabe enjoyed playing the stock market. We’re so grateful that she left our organization nearly $700,000.

 

Since we have open-concept offices, traditional wall space is scarce. We chose to pay our respects in a prominent, favorite route to our building’s second floor.

 

Right: Trained in portraiture, the artist uses a scaffold to get close to the wall.

 

The reaction of Kamea Hadar, Co-Lead Director of the nonprofit arts group POW! WOW! Worldwide: “No problem. Cool!” The artist, who painted a 15-story outdoor mural in the Pearl Harbor area, might also have meant literally cool, as this area is roofed and air-conditioned. He’s accustomed to dealing with hot sun and changing light.

 

Kamea, trained in traditional portraiture, learned to make buildings his canvas. He was raised in Israel and Hawai‘i and has painted in street venues all over the world.

Like us, he found the face of Mrs. Watanabe to be very kind and relatable.

 

Artist Kamea Hadar of POW! WOW! Worldwide

“Because the work is seen from afar and also from very close, I wanted to treat her portrait and the portraits of others in the piece like an oil painting on canvas.”
Artist Kamea Hadar

“Because the work is seen from afar, but also very close, I wanted to treat her portrait and other ones in the piece like an oil painting on canvas,” he told me.

 

Staffers and visitors watched, fascinated, as he coaxed light and life into the mural over the course of almost three weeks.

 

PBS Hawaiʻi mural by Kamea Hadar: Honoring the Memory of Mrs. Watanabe Every Day

 

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO“What I want them to feel is all the beautiful things that are done in this building, that come out of this building – educating children … and just the kind of energy that revolves around it,” Kamea said.

 

We thank him for his art, paying tribute to the teacher whose bequest continues her life’s work through educational nonprofit PBS Hawai‘i.

 

Have you considered including PBS Hawai‘i in your will or trust? I’d like to invite you to give me or our Advancement Department a call at 808.462.5000.

 

Aloha Nui,

Leslie signature


 

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PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs announces 2019 Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellows at local PBS stations

PBS HAWAI‘I – News Release

315 Sand Island Access Rd.| p: 808.462.5000| pbshawaii.org
Honolulu, HI 96819-2295| f: 808.462.5090

 

Read the full press release here at PBS.org

 

Washington, D.C. – PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) has selected three talented aspiring female journalists for summer fellowships at their local PBS stations: Mercedes Ezeji at KLRU in Austin, Texas; Tiffany Sagucio at PBS Hawaiʻi’ in Honolulu, HI; and Jaylah Moore-Ross at WETA in Arlington, VA. Their work and training in local newsrooms honors the memory and legacy of pioneering journalist and PBS NewsHour co-anchor and managing editor Gwen Ifill.

 

Tiffany Sagucio graduated from Kauaʻi High School this year and will be attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa to study journalism.

 

Kauaʻi High School graduate Tiffany Sagucio

Tiffany Sagucio

 

“Going into high school, I never expected becoming active in my digital media class,” said Sagucio. “I came to realize that everyone has their own story to share, and so do I. This class has shaped me to be optimistic, caring, and hardworking, like Gwen Ifill.”

 

Sagucio’s teacher, Leah Aiwohi, says the passion Sagucio developed for media and storytelling is inspiring.

 

 

 

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Danielle Chang interviews a former financier who offers a light, healthy take on Indian classics; and a Silicon Valley engineer who got her start in the food business selling homemade chai by bicycle in the hills of San Francisco.

 

 

 

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