Sabra Kauka

Native Hawaiian

AWARDEE:  Sabra Kauka
NATIVE HERITAGE:  Native Hawaiian
AWARD:  2021 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts
DISCIPLINE:  Traditional Arts
Garden Island Arts Council – BIO

Celebrated as one of the most influential na wahine alakai (women leaders) of Kauai, Sabra Kauka shares her passion for Hawaiian culture by educating youth and adults alike. As the daughter of an army officer and then as the wife of an air force pilot, Kauka experienced many different cultures living around the world. She was enjoying her career as a photojournalist in Alaska when the calling of her Native Hawaiian community brought her home. She landed on Kauai, where her knowledge and care for the environment and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian traditions have made her a respected cultural leader of the community. She serves as kumu of Hawaiian studies and hula at Island School and as the coordinator of Hawaiian Studies on Kauai for the Department of Education. As team member of the Kulia i Ka Nuu Project at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Kumu Kapa on Kauai, she has taught hundreds of students.

Kauka is founding member and past-president of grassroots nonprofit, Na Pali Coast Ohana, dedicated to preserving natural and cultural resources of the Napali Coast State Park. Her work at the ancient Hawaiian village, Nualolo Kai, is considered one of the most successful curator programs in Hawaii. She still serves on the Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development board to restore cultural sites for future generations. She has also been a journalist, historian, environmentalist, anthropologist, political public information officer, dedicated activist and grandmother and she continues her work to benefit the island community and beyond.

It is my hope that the (people) that I teach grow up to appreciate the beauty that we have here, the unique communities that we have, the unique cultures, and that they want to come home and take care of the place.

― Sabra Kauka (Native Hawaiian)


Kauka’s project E Ho`omau (to perpetuate) will focus on the bark pounding art of kapa (used as clothing material) and botanical dyes by designing and creating costumes for twenty women and ten men in a halau(hula school) for their participation in Merrie Monarch, the world’s premiere hula festival, in 2023. The festival provides an international venue to display the collaborative work and the cultural intersections between kapa, ink, and hula. The project will explore environmental protection, cultural preservation, and knowledge transference. Each participant will be given the plants to grow along with the knowledge needed to perpetuate the arts of kapa and inks. The organizational partners are Garden Island Arts Council and National Tropical Botanical Garden, who will offer educational workshops for the community.


The Garden Island Arts Council (GIAC) is a non-profit organization comprised of an all-volunteer board of directors who provide a year-round program of activities and events for the benefit of residents and visitors to Kauai. GIAC encourages greater public participation in and appreciation of a wide variety of arts and cultural opportunities, fostering public awareness around the value of creative activities in enriching the lives of its constituencies. GIAC partners with other community organizations and the community at large to establish a home for arts, education and technology where the partners in the facility can effectively carry out their missions to serve the community and help build a strong economic base for its island community.

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