Lau hala workshops with Kumu Keoua Nelson
Over two days of workshops, one in June and one in August, our hālau learned how to handle lau hala (screwpine or pandanus leaf) and weave our own pale (protective mat/pad) for use with our ipu heke. The workshops were taught by Kumu Bill Keoua Nelson, of iHala.com, who hails from the Big Island of Hawai’i.
Kumu Keoua comes from a long lineage of weavers, six generations all told, and he takes his craft very seriously. He began the sessions by sharing the moʻo kūʻauhau (scientific genealogy; the species used for weaving in Hawai’i is usually the Pandanus tectorius) of the pū hala (Pandanus tree) and some significant mo’olelo (historical records/tales, traditions, stories) that pertain to it and its uses. He then taught an oli from his ohana about lau hala, and shared the chronology of his family’s traditions with lau hala.
It was only after an understanding of and an appreciation for lau hala had been imparted that Kumu Keoua started us off on practical aspects of the workshop. We learnt how to gather, clean and strip the lau hala, and then he showed us how to weave.
Day 1 of the workshop was hosted by Alika Parker. We enjoyed beautiful views of Mauna Makaleha and Mauna Kalalea while we learnt and worked. Day 2 was hosted by Angela in Kilauea. On one of the workshop days, Kumu Lei wore a pāpale woven from lau hala which had been a gift from her aunty. The hat had been purchased 30 years ago. When Kumu Keoua examined the pāpale, he found evidence of a particular weave which was a trademark of his grandmother, Aunty Lillian Alepoki Grace Nelson; he was certain that she had made it. Kumu Lei was thrilled to have found this connection with Kumu Keoua and his heritage.