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.
The end of January this year saw Kumu Lei making a splash in San Diego, California at the second edition of Hula Kahanoa’s annual hula workshop series. Hula Kahanoa is the mainland USA extension of the hālau here on Kaua’i, and it is led by Aunty Kahanoa Floresca.
Similar to 2015’s debut, the workshops were planned around equipping all the participants with not only hula choreography for the year ahead, but also aloha, cultural and historical wisdom and guidance, and a sense of respect and honour for kupuna and Ke Akua.
Kumu Lei was formally welcomed to San Diego at a private ceremony at which event sponsors could meet her and where students presented her with ho’okupu to express their love, honour and blessings to her. It was obvious that a lot of thought, care and aloha went into the planning, preparation and presentation of the gifts.
The evening concluded with a special welcome dinner that was attended by various VIPs in the community.
Below are some snapshots from the workshops, and the ho’ike on January 31 which was a wonderful roundup of the entire three-day event.
Making one’s own adornments is an important aspect of being a hula dancer. And it’s not just about making things that look pretty — it’s about developing skill, patience, discipline and perseverance, especially with items as intricate as a lei hulu.
For this workshop that happened somewhere between late summer and early fall, we got together at Kumu Lei’s home to really settle down to the task. We washed, cut, primped and organised thousands of feathers, and then sat down to wili. It takes a lot of work and takes a lot of time, but the end products — our very own handmade lei po’o hulu — are nani loa.
We really appreciated this time we had to work together, talk and laugh… and we ended the workshop with Kumu Lei making dinner for everyone present. It was a great day all round.
Making one’s own inplements is an important thing in the study of hula, and when knowledge and experience gained from earlier workshops can be combined in the making of another item, it’s an exciting and eye-opening activity indeed!
In a recent practical workshop, the intermediate papa hula completed a lengthy but very rewarding process – making their own ‘uli’uli. After gathering, picking and preparing various native Hawaiian plants to make the necessary dyes, the ladies stamped their kapa with ohe kapala and made their ’uli’uli with hackle feathers and la’amea gourds filled with ali’i poe, finishing them with rattan wraps.
Each set of ’uli’uli certainly took many hours to make, and every step was done together as a class… so our time together was filled with talk story, laughing, eating, dancing, eating some more, but no gossip – for real!
The finished product is something that each of us is proud of. We are looking forward to dancing with our new hula implements.
At a recent hands-on workshop, the Kapaa papa keiki had the opportunity to learn how to make what would be their first personal hula implement – an ipu.
We met at Kapaa Beach, where this special outdoor class began with the keiki bringing their ipu out for pikai (cleansing) in the ocean. We started off with a time of pule (prayer), asking Ke Akua to bless our time, and then the keiki began cleaning their ipu with one (sand) and kai (ocean water).
After all the ipu were clean, we headed up to Kumu Lei’s house, where with some help from their parents the keiki cut the tops off from their ipu and got round to cleaning the insides of gourds. We did some fine sanding to smoothen out the cuts, too, before inserting the kaula (rope) into the little puka drilled into the sides of the ipu. The final touch was to rub down the implements with kukui oil.
It was a job well done and after all that work, we gratefully sat down together to enjoy some tasty mea ‘ai that the parents had brought along to share. It was a wonderful time for everyone. Mahalo Ke Akua!