Since 2008, this yearly festival, which connects tradition and our modern world, takes place on the grounds of the Honolulu Bernice Bishop Museum, which is the perfect setting as it has an abundance of information on Hawaii history. In previous articles I talked about local food and finding ways to actively get children into environmental awareness. Here, I would like to write a little bit about traditional arts and crafts, which was shown during this festival. It is a free event that is dedicated to clean energy and sustainability.
Sustainability through local tradition – Arts and Crafts
A festival is a great outreach to the public. Very hands on, traditional and modern ways of sustainable living were shown right next to each other at the "Grow Hawaii Festival".
It is somehow amazing and obvious at the same time, how traditional ways of producing everyday objects facilitate nature without permanently damaging it. Early settlers would not have made it if they had destroyed their major source of surviving, being months of a canoe ride away form the next land. Especially here on an island, where the area that can be exploited is limited, people originally learned to sustainably live with nature. Besides bringing with them animals and plants in their canoes which they needed for food and often times as medicine, Polynesian settlers also introduced species that were useful for building everyday tools.
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One very important art was the technique of weaving. It can be found almost everywhere like in the form of Lauhala, which seems to get more and more popular nowadays. The prepared leaves of the Hala tree were being woven into everyday life things like mats, baskets, fans, hats, roofing material, or for modern use, just to decorative items like bracelets or head bands. Basically all other parts of the tree were used as well, so the fruits as paint brushes, and the stem as food. Weaving artists, who primarily use fronds of the coconut tree, can be found all over Waikiki offering their trinkets to tourists. More traditional weaving products are sandals or capes made out of Ti leaves. Leaves of the Ti plant are further used for making lei and hula skirts, and for wrapping food. Ieie is another Hawaiian plant, which was utilized for weaving. Its long strong roots were made, e.g., into baskets with lids and fish traps, sandals, or served as frames for helmets. The art of weaving can also be found in fish nets or carriers. The bark of the Olona bush was the source of those valuable fibers, which after special treatment were twisted into long cords.
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Another ancient Hawaiian tradition, which is slowly getting more popular again, is Kapa (clothes) making. It is a very strenuous and complex way of making clothes by pounding the bark of the Wauke (mulberry) tree. It requires lots of tools (different kapa beaters, bamboo sticks for dying and stamping) and steps, which are a combination of peeling, fermenting, rinsing, pounding, embossing, dying or scenting; finally the pieces are being stitched together with olona fibers. Kapa festivals like on Big Island and on Oahu (the Bishop Museum hosted its first Kapa festival last fall), bring this tradition closer to the public.
Flowers and Feathers
And what would a Hawaiian festival be without flower lei stands? They do not belong to life’s necessities but are just like feather Kahili (standard to show noble status) nice to look at. On a side note, feather also played an important role to make Mahiole (royal helmet) and ’ahu ’ula (royal cape). Bird catchers caught the birds at the beginning of the molting season, so the feathers would easily come off and the bird would not get hurt and be released again.
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