HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In Hawaii, a lei is a symbol of Aloha. In Waikiki, an area where luxury stores and hotels have taken over, an experiment is underway to keep the connection to old Hawaii alive.
The family that used to run Aunty Bella’s Lei Stand at the Royal Hawaiian Center closed their kiosk in 2016. The business got its name from Kapela Moses, known as “Aunty Bella,” who started selling fresh lei in Waikiki in 1928.
Last April, lei makers from Halau Hula Ka Liko o Kapalai gave away fresh lei as part of a three-week art installation at the kiosk. Due to the positive response, Royal Hawaiian Center teamed up with Na Mea Hawaii and Puuhonua Society for a six-month project that will wrap up at the end of February.
“In Hawaii, we give lei as a show of our love for each other so we share our aloha. As we’re gathering flowers, we’re thinking good thoughts,” said Dawn Mukai, a buyer and manager at Na Mea Hawaii.
Members of the public skilled in lei making are being allowed to share the use of The Lei Stand for free to sell lei that they make. Royal Hawaiian Center is collecting data to find out if it’s viable to have lei makers continue selling their creations in the future.
“We’re asking them to provide how many lei they sell and we’re asking them to sell only lei that are made in Hawaii so they have to gather (materials) from their communities,” explained Royal Hawaiian Center Cultural Director Monte McComber.
The Lei Stand is open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. across the street from the Galleria shops.
“Seeing people in the lei stand, selling lei that they’ve sewn with their own hands is beautiful," said Ashlee Affonso, a manager at Na Mea Hawaii. "The intention is to bring that part of our culture back.”
Interested lei makers who want to participate should email firstname.lastname@example.org