2022 - PRESENT
Under the mentoring of Lloyd Harold Kumulāʻau Sing Jr. and May Haunani Balino-Sing, the haumāna of Nā Akua Ākea Moku O Keawe Hilo-Pāʻieʻie made personal commitments to perpetuate 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 while learning and integrating new cultural skills and mediums not commonly used today.
Inspired from nineteen existing kiʻi akua hulu manu artifacts around the world today, our students created their own representation of 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!
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).
Pomai Brown, a native of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, is a multi-talented musician and cultural ambassador. He grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Kalihi before moving to Hilo with his family at the age of 10. It was here that he first discovered his love for music, and he took up the ʻukulele at the urging of his aunt. His musical talents blossomed, and he soon joined the Waiakea Intermediate School Ukulele Band.
Attending Kamehameha Schools at Kāpalama, he fully embraced all of the musical opportunities that were available to him. He participated in the Marching Band, Orchestra, and Concert Glee Club, and spent the summer of his junior and senior years in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, performing in the Polynesian Show at Porpoise Island theme park.
At Hawaiʻi Pacific College, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurial Studies, then embarked on a successful musical career, joining various revues and shows in Waikiki and Tokyo Disneyland. His musical talents also extend beyond playing the guitar, ukulele, and 5-string banjo; he is also a skilled Hawaiian steel guitar player and builds ʻukulele when time permits. In addition to his music career, he has also launched an acting career, which has included guest roles in major motion pictures, independent films, commercials, and several Hawai’i TV projects.
Pomai is a founding member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Moku O Kohala and serves as the CEO of Hale Mua Cultural Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Kona, Hawaiʻi, whose mission is to preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian cultural teachings and practices, while at the same time, support the restoration of Hawaiian sacred sites.
“The love I have for my Hawaiian culture and the passion to preserve it through music and other cultural practices continues on with this Ulana ‘Ie Hilo-cohort. I want to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to Kumulā'au Sing and his wife Haunani for their unwavering commitment to preserving and sharing the art of Hawaiian weaving. Their teachings have been invaluable to me and the rest of the class. Through their guidance and teachings, I have learned not just the technical aspects of weaving, but also the cultural significance and spiritual connections woven into each piece. The skills and knowledge I have gained from them have enriched my life and helped me better understand and appreciate the beauty and importance of Hawaiian weaving. Mahalo nui loa, Kumulā'au and Haunani, for your generosity in sharing your knowledge and expertise with me and the class. Your legacy will continue to live on through the countless weavers and cultural practitioners whose lives you have touched”.
I have always been drawn to the way my Kūpuna lived their lives. Growing up here on Moku o Keawe and then leaving to chase a career brought home the importance of my belonging to this ‘Āina. I continue to appreciate the genius of our traditional ʻŌiwi ways of feeling and thinking and strive to improve how I ground myself within.
As such, I am so thankful to my teachers and those who came before who had the passion and took the challenge to re-learn and pass on the work of Ulana ʻIe. I appreciate deeply those who contributed materials and effort to make all of this possible and Aloha Nui to my hoa papa with whom I have shared this sacred learning.
I plan to continue this hana noʻeau and in doing so, hope to further open the path of knowledge from my Kūpuna. Many voices call to us on life's journey. Sometimes, the most profound answers whisper in from the distant spaces of our past.
If we listen, we can learn...
Paʻa ka waha, hoʻolohe ka pepeiau...
Eō e ka Pāʻieʻie!
I have lived in many places over the course of my lifetime, but there is only one place that speaks to my heart. I first visited Hawai’i when my family was being transferred to the Philippines. Since then, I came here as often as I could. My dream came true when we bought our home and moved to Hilo in 2006. I opened the Hilo Honu Inn, a bed and breakfast on Haili Street that same year.
My exposure to Hawaiian culture started with the music of the islands. Music led me to hula and other cultural interests. In 2010, I met Aunty Doreen Henderson, a true lei hulu master. Her love for this art inspired me to follow the same path. She made me a Kumu in 2017, and I helped instruct her hālau, Lei Hulu ‘o Hilo after that. Under her leadership, I was honored to participate in the recreation of Queen Kapiʻolani's feathered black velvet gown and peacock gown, both of which were worn at Queen Victoria's Jubilee where they created quite a sensation. They are currently on display at ʻIolani Palace.
On several occasions, I have taught lei hulu at Kamehameha Schools Keaʻau campus as a volunteer and at the Kanakaʻole Foundation in Keaukaha. It was a wonderful experience to work with students as young as nine or 10, in their study of the ʻalalā. They were remarkable in their attentiveness and effort.
I have been a participant in the Merrie Monarch Craft Fair since 2015, and formed my own hālau, Nā Hulu Noʻeau ʻo Kanilehua, in 2019. My goal is to reach young people who are interested in passing on this beautiful tradition to future generations. Currently, the only feather lei classes offered in the area are through Parks & Recreation facilities and are limited to senior programs, leaving a need for classes available to young people and working parents.
Most recently, I have completed a year-long class in ʻie ʻie weaving techniques, completing a Kiʻi Akua (Hawaiian war god), used in battle and other ceremonial practices. The challenge now is to complete this work by covering it in feathers.
Look me up in a few years to check on my progress!
Eo, e nā hoa aloha ʻāina a me nā poʻe aloha lāhui. ʻO Makaʻala Rawlins koʻu ʻinoa. No Panaʻewa mai au, kahi kaulana i ka ʻawa ʻili lena. Noho pū au ma Panaʻewa ma ka ʻāina hoʻopulapula. Eia mai au kekahi lālā o kaʻu mau kumu ʻo Haunani lāua ʻo Kumulāʻau.
My name is Makaʻala Rawlins, I'm born and raised in the Hawaiian homesteads of Keaukaha and Panaʻewa on the island of Hawaiʻi. I continue to reside on homestead lands in Panaʻewa with my wife and two sons. We are a farming ʻohana with a desire to continue on the farming efforts set forth by our kūpuna of the area.
In my professional career, I work as a cultural specialist for Kamehameha Schools, helping to create culturally-based professional and educational development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students.
When this opportunity to learn about ulana ʻie presented itself, it was a way to connect both my appreciation for mahiʻai and my professional cultural development work. Now that it has been a year I realize that my ulana ʻie journey has just begun and I look forward to see where it will take me into the future and how I can share what I have learned with my ʻohana and keep it going.
Mahalo to Ke Kumu Hawaiʻi's, Kumu Haunani and Kumu Kumulā'au for imparting their years of knowledge and expertise upon us.
Your mentoring, coaching, and encouragement helped keep things moving and classes challenging.
Born and raised in Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu. He moved to Hilo at age 11 to the present. With his wife Kekuhi, their children and grandchildren reside in Panaʻewa, Waiākea, Hilo Hanakahi.
He holds academic degrees in Hawaiian Studies, Education, and Interdisciplinary Studies. A professor of Hawaiian Studies, Dr. Tangarō serves as Director of Hawaiian Culture & Protocols Engagement at Hawaiʻi Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. He has received several awards and recognition for his stellar achievements in bridging deep Hawaiian culture and higher education.
Tangarō is an ʻuniki hula graduate of Hālau o Kekuhi and positions hula as a medium to explore, define, exercise, and assess indigenous leadership, rituals, and protocols.
Tangarō was always, since childhood, enamored by woven work- baskets, sculptures, textiles, and netting. He never saw himself, however, as a weaver, primarily due to the absence of weavers in his domestic world. "Yes, we had fishnet makers in the family and lauhala weavers in the neighborhood, but I wanted to weave the things I saw at the Bishop Museum and in our Hawaiiana history books, and there was no one I knew that did this. Until that is, Kumulāʻau and Haunani Sing appeared upon my horizon - I know them, they are kind, humble, and patient, and their creations were mind boggling and inspiring. Their vision to have every family with a weaver was also inspiring. So I signed up, and here I am."
When asked, what are your takeaways from this experience?
"Firstly, weaving in a community has a way of creating intriguing and healthy conversations - "why do the kiʻi grimace?", "What are todayʻs functions for kiʻi?", "how far can we push innovations of kiʻi without compromising the culture?" etc.
"Secondly, this experience will be imprinted in my children and their children. When they need kiʻi, they donʻt have to stare at the horizon for their teachers to arrive. Their teacher is their father/grandfather. I am a weaver."
Krisha Mitsue Kananiokapuʻuwai Zane is the hiapo of Davelyn Leilani Makua and Eric Mitsuo Zane of Hilo. She was born and raised in Waipiʻo (Mililani), Oʻahu graduating from Mililani High School in 2011. Krisha then moved to her current home in Hilo to continue her education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, studying Business Administration with a Finance concentration and Hawaiian Studies. She has since supported Hawaiian culture-based organizations in data analysis, fund development and program design. Krisha is currently pursuing a master's degree at the National University of Natural Medicine to study wellness and indigenous diet to improve native Hawaiian health in her community.
Beyond weaving, Krisha is devoted to her hula ʻaihaʻa training entrusted from Unukupukupu under Taupōuri Tangarō, and her zen training from Chozen-ji. Both disciplines, although culturally different, provide her with a strong sense of grounding and growth. Her ʻulana journey began at a young age when she would spend many days watching her father weave baskets and hats, which sparked her interest in weaving with different fibers including lauhala, niu, and now ʻieʻie. Over 20 years later, with a new fiber in hand, the most exciting thing about learning with Nā Akua Akea has been sharing it with her family and friends while creating space to share and relearn these special practices so that they can be woven into our modern lifestyles. She looks forward to continuing this ʻulana journey and wishes for a healthy and fruitful lāhui.
Ke Kumu Hawaiʻi would like to thank the many people and organizations that
have helped to make the Nā Akua Ākea Moku o Keawe Hilo-Pāʻieʻie
weaving cohort possible.
Mahalo to the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for their continuous support of our journey in healing humanity with our cultural arts.
Mahalo to Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani Kanahele of Lonoa Honua for her support in helping to bring Nā Akua Ākea Moku o Keawe Hilo-Pāʻieʻie to the Hawaiʻi Island community and allowing us space to teach our cohort and, for hosting our Hilo-Pāʻieʻie Cohort Kīpaepae ʻŪniki Dedicatory Ceremony.
A special aloha and mahalo to the artists of Nā Akua Ākea Moku o Keawe
Hilo-Pāʻieʻie for their dedication and commitment to perpetuate the art of ʻieʻie
Nephi Pomai Brown, Paul Kalaukoa Chang, Gay Covington, Makaʻala Rawlins, Taupōuri Tangarō and Krisha Zane.
Mahalo to Kealiʻi Bio for his contribution of alaheʻe wood that was beautifully made into carrying poles by Paul Kalaukoa Chang.
Mahalo to Leah Pualahaʻole Caldeira for her knowledge and research with her
Thesis, Akua Hulu Manu Through Materials, for her degree of Master of Arts in Art, 2003. Her research has provided us a foundation in helping us to learn about the intracacies of the kiʻi akua hulu manu.
Mahalo to Alice Christophe and Frøya Crabtree of the British Museum and the Benioff Oceania Programme for their assistance and aloha in sharing their knowledge and care of our Hawaiian collection of artifacts and the five kiʻi akua hulu manu that are there which inspired and changed the way we view and do our work in the Hawaiian community and this Hilo ʻieʻie weaving cohort.
Mahalo to Beau Jack Key for his aloha and work in Hawaiian cultural arts and for supporting our cohort.
Mahalo to Caroline Ross of the Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi Island who willingly shared their space to allow our cohort to meet for our classes.
Mahalo to Taupōuri Tangarō, Director of Hawaiian Culture and Protocols
Engagement, Hawaiʻi Community College and the University of Hawaiii at Hilo and I Ola Hāloa Center for Hawaiʻi Life Styles for planning and hosting our Hilo-Pāʻieʻie Cohort Kīpaepae ʻŪniki Dedicatory Ceremony.
Mahalo to Kanoena Haunani Kawenakonoikalā Sing for her graphic and web-design work and technical support for Ke Kumu Hawaiʻi.
Lastly, we would like to express our aloha and gratitude to Patrick Horimoto and Raymond Nakama for their contributions towards the advancement of ʻieʻie basketry. They were the pioneers who paved the way to make our passion of weaving ʻieʻie a reality.
Nā Akua Ākea is supported in part by Lonoa Honua, I Ola Hāloa Center for Hawaiʻi Life Styles, the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and Ke Kumu Hawaiʻi.
All photographs and content of Nā Akua Ākea may not be used, printed, or reproduced without consent or written permission.