Weaving a bond of brotherhood, men of all ages are keeping a Hawaiian art alive

Weaving a bond of brotherhood, men of all ages are keeping a Hawaiian art alive

KAKAAKO, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many people have searched for new hobbies during the coronavirus pandemic. But for a group of men on Oahu stuck to what they knew: Traditional Hawaiian weaving.

It’s a hobby not all that common, but has beautiful end results.

Every Sunday afternoon, the men of Hui Ala Hinano gather in Kakaako for a weaving workshop.

The in-person classes — which are limited in size — are once again taking place after months of working apart due to social distancing rules.

Izon and his students create a variety of items from hats in different styles, to flowers, and even a custom hat box.
Izon and his students create a variety of items from hats in different styles, to flowers, and even a custom hat box. (Source: Dillon Ancheta, HNN)

While weaving, members are safely masked up, and close contact only happens when briefly checking each other’s work.

Kumu Kaeo Izon started the group about 2 years ago with hopes of keeping traditional Hawaiian weaving alive.

Their youngest member is just 11 years old, and their oldest at one point was 59. In a matter of weeks, students learn how to transform lauhala from a raw material into beautiful works of art like bottle covers, mats, and intricate papale.

“It’s exciting to know that it’s something they wanna do and not something that they’re being forced to do,” Kaeo said.

During the lockdown, members kept their craft alive by weaving what they could. For the younger boys, they spent the time collecting and preparing leaves.

Video chatting and texting helped them stay in touch during the lockdown, but Izon said it just wasn’t the same as a hands-on lesson.

“I was always taught that weaving should be taught in person from one person to the other,” he said.

Kaeo has been weaving for 11 years. He learned the craft from respected kumu before him: Ipolani Vaughan, Evva Lim, Suzi Swartman and Margaret Lovett.

Through his lessons, he’s passing on their knowledge, and so much more, to the next generation.

“It allows us to come together as a group for support, and of course the guidance of our kumu and his teachers as well. It allows us to raise the bar of our own expectations,” member Cody Pueo Pata said.

“When we help these younger students, or these incoming students, it allows us to solidify within ourselves the steps that we’re supposed to know, and it also passes that onto our lauhala brothers, our weaving brothers,” he added.

Pata explained the group’s name is poetic within itself as it refers to the fragrance of the male lauhala tree’s procreative flowers.

With each weave and handcrafted item, it’s their way of keeping an indigenous art form alive.

“(Indigenous arts) allow us to experience the same sights, smells, feelings our kupuna did, so it provides a sense of continuity between generations,” Pata said.

Among the group’s participants is a small group of young men also part of ʻAha Kāne, which have been supported by other organizations like First Nations and the Hawaii People’s Fund.

Kumu Kaeo hopes young men will takeaway lifelong lessons to become independent weavers.

“We’re not just passing down the art of weaving, we’re passing down knowledge and ike, rather than just something that’s physical,” he said.

Those interested in contacting Kumu Kaeo about purchasing items can send him a direct message through his Instagram by clicking here.

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