Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Disappearing Kapu Sign

Kapu sign in Paia, a rare sight.

Kapu signs used to be commonplace when I was growing up on Oahu. I'd see kapu signs along driveways, on fence posts, on forbidden wooded areas.  Kapu is Hawaiian for "forbidden, keep out, no trespassing."  Nowadays, true kapu signs are far and few between. Handwritten kapu signs have been replaced by storebought mainland-ese signs that say "Keep Out" or "No Trespassing."  Maybe no one knows what kapu means anymore.

I searched around to find examples of kapu signs on Maui. I found one in Paia, and another in Wailuku.

Handpainted Kapu sign in big letters.
The last kapu sign I've seen this year was in Waiehu, north of Wailuku, on a remote mountain road:

A more vehement and official looking kapu sign.

This particular kapu sign refers to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, which deserves its own post.

Another kapu sign, maybe in Wailuku. 

Kapu sign at an estate in Haiku. 

I imagine this kapu sign was used at a luau?
Update 4/11/14: I've added three more kapu signs above, and have explored the topic of kapu more deeply, especially in old Hawaii.  


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