THE VAST AND NUMEROUS DEITIES
Nā Akua Ākea, The Vast and Numerous Deities is the culmination of a year-long weaving journey of haumāna practitioners delving into their collective past of ancestral memories to weave the kiʻi akua hulu manu. This experience has engaged each student to draw into their ancestral histories and, connect with their kūpuna for knowledge and guidance.
Under the mentoring of Lloyd Harold Kumulāʻau Sing Jr. and May Haunani Balino-Sing, haumāna made personal commitments to perpetuating ʻieʻie style basketry by learning to weave various forms of hīnaʻi, hīnaʻi iʻa, and the kiʻi akua hulu manu; the finale project that integrates all of the knowledge and skills they have acquired during the year-long cohort project while learning and integrating new cultural skills and mediums not commonly used today.
The kiʻi akua hulu manu were powerful ancestral images who possessed immense mana and served in many capacities. They were genealogically connected to ruling chiefs and their descendants who were charged with the possession and the custody of the feathered gods. These deities protected their chiefs in the realm of the living and continually cared for them in the next life, the realm of the ʻaumakua. They protected the well being of the government and aided in times of war.
Bringing these ancestral images to life was the vision of each haumāna who were able to weave and express their feelings and understanding of the kiʻi akua hulu manu. Inspired from nineteen existing kiʻi akua hulu manu artifacts in the world today, our students created their own representations of the Hawaiian deities.
No feathers were affixed to these contemporary images of Hawaiian deities to highlight the workmanship and artistry of each haumāna, and the beauty of ʻieʻie style basketry.
It is with great pride and humility that we welcome you to enjoy this multi-sensory experience,
Nā Akua Ākea.
E Komo Mai!
Raymond Nakama was an accomplished craftsman of Hawaiian material culture; weaving came natural to him. His many years of crafting hula implements and his sharp mind and intuitiveness enabled him to unravel many secrets of ʻieʻie weaving. Raymond spent many years working and traveling alongside Patrick Horimoto; sharing ʻike and space in many venues and public demonstrations.
Lloyd Harold Sing Jr. (Kumulāʻau) met Raymond Nakama in 1998 through a pahu drum and ipu heke workshop. Unknown to Raymond, he would learn of Kumulāʻau’s interest in ulana ʻie and became his mentor for 14 years until his passing in May 2014. It was Raymond’s words of encouragement that inspired May Haunani Balino- Sing to take up weaving and join Kumulāʻau on this journey of ulana ʻie.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Ching
The ʻIeʻie (Freycinetia arborea) vine is an indigenous plant found in our native forests in higher elevations between the altitudes of 1,000 to 4,500 feet. The vine grows upward to the tops of koa and ʻōhiʻa trees, and can have stems about an inch in diameter.
The vine has thin and pointed leaves that can grow up to two and a half feet long and, at the center of the leaf cluster are rotund and elongated flowers that resemble spikes. The fruits of the vine are orange with seeded berries. Long and thin ʻie, or rootlets, extend from the stem of the vine downwards, sometimes reaching lengths of twenty feet long before settling into the ground.
The rootlets can take about six months to a year to mature before they can be harvested; collected during the summer in ideal dry conditions. We were taught that it is a good practice to gather with a partner and to never go ma uka by yourself, always respect the forest. Over the years, we implemented our own protocol for harvesting ʻie: inspired from hula gathering practices. It was and is pono to ask permission to enter the forest.
We offer and engage in the following:
Offering oli kāhea
Pule for acceptance and protection
Hoʻokupu (offering) or clearing/cleaning the area Mahalo – offering thanks for the gifts of knowledge and ʻieʻie collected
The following steps share the preparation of ʻieʻie prior to weaving:
Sort and bundle rootlets by size (length and thickness)
Removal of outer skin bark
Cutting off of nodes (small pin like thorns)
Soaking rootlets in water to soften the skin to scrape off organic film
Splitting rootlets to half round pieces to create koana or wefts
Use splints from the middle portion of the rootlets as māʻawe loloa or warps
Dyeing ʻieʻie can occur before of after weaving a product
Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (Ceratocystis fimbriata), is a fungal pathogen that was identified on Hawaiʻi Island in 2014. The fungus attacks and can quickly kill ʻōhiʻa trees (Metrosideros polymorpha), trees essential in the ecosystem of Hawaiʻi for supporting the growth of ʻieʻie. ʻŌhiʻa is endemic to Hawaiʻi and comprises approximately 80% of Hawaiʻi’s native forests. As of December 2018, an aggressive form of Ceratocyctis fungi, which causes ROD, have been confirmed to exist on the island of Kauaʻi.
“ʻIe weaving” is referred to a style of basketry weaving in which the rootlets of the ʻieʻie vine are woven to a flat-like plaited style that is similarly done with lauhala mats and pāpale. ʻIe also refers to wicker, that is, any shoot of a plant that is used for its pliability to make a basket or any other product i.e. rattan or reed.
Ke Kumu Hawaiʻi’s stance on ʻieʻie style basketry is focused on teaching and perpetuating the weaving of the aerial rootlets from the wild pandanus vine. Hui Ulana ʻIe o Maui learned this unique traditional basketry using split and round rattan reed in lieu of ʻieʻie rootlets; because of the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death epidemic that is harming our forest environment. As conservationists, it would be imprudent to gather ʻieʻie in areas affected by the fungus for cultural practice and use in this exhibition. We strongly support the continued education about ROD for our lāhui and, the importance for us to continue this type of Hawaiian basketry to preserve our ʻike kūpuna, however, never at the expense of compromising our ʻāina to be “authentic.”
Traditionally, the kiʻi akua hulu manu (feather god image) were powerful ancestral images that were genealogically passed down from one chief to another. They were created using natural materials that were thoughtfully gathered with purpose to endow the deity with various spiritual attributes. These materials included rootlets of the ʻieʻie vine (Freycinetia arborea), lāʻau (wood), niho (teeth from dog or shark), pā (shell), olonā (cordage and netting), hili (dye), and ʻaila (oil). The hulu (feathers) of birds were also affixed to the images, being that they were kinolau of Kū. They have hulumanu ʻula, the color red, that evokes the blood associated with fishing and war (Caldeira, 2003).
There are nineteen known and documented kiʻi akua hulu manu artifacts in existence. The roles and functions of the kiʻi akua hulu manu are many to include ceremonies involving death and burial, Makahiki and luakini rituals, and warfare. In battle, the presence of these awesome images generated courage in their respective warriors; preparing them spiritually and psychologically for battle. Conversely, the kiʻi akua hulu manu would strike fear in their opponents, who would visually be alarmed and frightened on the battlefield knowing full well that these images being sorcery gods, brought destruction to their well-being.
Today, we may never fully comprehend the roles and functions of the kiʻi akua hulu manu, however, through research and reconstruction of how these awesome images were made, we are able to follow in the footsteps of our kūpuna. Following their example, we can coexist with the ʻāina by spiritually connecting with the ancestors and having an appreciation for our natural materials; those materials which gives the kiʻi life.
Hīnaʻi is a basket or container made of woven or plaited ʻie rootlets, hala (pandanus), niu (coconut) or other material; a kind of basket fish trap as used for ʻōpae (shrimp), puhi (eel), hīnālea (wrasse) and ʻoʻopu (goby) (wehewehe.org, 2019).
The twined ʻie baskets of Hawaiʻi were the finest in all of Polynesia. All Hawaiian twined baskets had circular bottoms. The twining process started at the piko (center), worked outward to form the bottom of the basket and the upward bend, proceeded to make the sides and ended by closing the weave at the top (upper rim).
Our haumāna learned how to weave various piko, the most important step when starting a basket. They learned this by producing a mandala. The mandala serves as a reference tool of how to start a hīnaʻi by, showing how to extend its diameter through the further addition of māʻawe loloa (warps) and how to extend the length of the weft by adding a new koana. There are two basic types of hīnaʻi: open “eye” weave, which are ideal for fish baskets and traps, and the closed weave for containers.
Kalamainuʻu, or Kalanimainuʻu is said to have been one of a few paramount moʻo akua wahine in ancient Hawaiʻi whose primary concern was to oversee the safety and protection of the government. She was a goddess who, like Walinuʻu, Walimānoanoa and Kihawahine had an image of herself in the heiau (temple). Tradition shares that aliʻi who relied on her and the other moʻo deities had their kingdom so guarded that it could not be shaken.
Tradition shares that Kalamainuʻu was a kupua; a shape shifter with great power. She possessed the ʻeʻepa ability to transform herself to become a beautiful woman. In one story, Kalamainuʻu takes the chief Punaʻaikoaʻe as a lover. When the chief learns in horror of her secret identity from two individuals, Hinale and Akilolo, Kalamainuʻu retaliates by weaving a hīnaʻi hīnālea baited with crabs to catch her two informant enemies; tearing them both into small pieces and casting their remains to the sea where they changed into hīnālea fish.
In the moʻolelo of Māʻeiliʻeli, the moʻo that surfs at Kuʻau in Heʻeia, the tongue of Kalamainuʻu is said to have transformed into a surfboard. Here, Kalamainuʻu lets him use her as a surfboard without him realizing that it is her tongue. It is used as a thematic device in few stories related to moʻo akua wahine.
Fish traps like the hīnaʻi hīnālea were used by wahine who would wade out in the sea to set these traps in the sandy openings along the reef and tidepools. Other traps such as hīnaʻi ʻōpae and hīnaʻi ʻoʻopu were used in the streams. As a result, Kalamainuʻu was deified by wahine as a patron goddess of fish trap making.
Information regarding Kalamainuʻu was taken from excerpts of Ka ʻOihana Kahuna Ma Mua Aku by Joseph Poepoe from the Bishop Museum Archives, Heʻe Wahine I Ka Lani: Goddess in the Surf by Ian ʻAkahi Masterson, and Arts and Crafts of Hawaiʻi by Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa).
E ulu, e ulu, kini o ke akua
Ulu Kāne me Kanaloa
Ulu ʻōhiʻa lau koa me ka ʻieʻie
Aʻe mai a noho i kou kuahu
Eia ka wai la
He wai e ola
E ola nō e!
Grow, expand multitude of gods
Grow in your forms of Land and Sea
Grow in your forms of upright plants and twining plants
Settle here and dwell in your altar
Here is your water
Life giving water
Grant life indeed!
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