“Before Pele came to Kalapana, there was a puhala tree close to the ocean from which we gathered our leaves. They were reddish ones, so we used to refer to that as lauhalaula. That was fifteen years ago. We had to look for other trees after Pele consumed that area!” The old-timer from Puna related the stories of her family and how they sought out the best leaves to weave their lauhala products. They would gather leaves along the coast in Kalapana because that’s what their parents did when they were young.
Promoting the art and the skills of weaving dried leaves of the pandanus, the Aha Puhala O Puna was established in 1992. Under the guidance of master weavers Aunty Minnie Kaawaloa of Kapaahu, Kalapana, and Aunty Lily Sugahara of Hilo, the non-profit organization meets monthly to keep abreast of all things weaving. The stories that are shared speak of the gatherings from the districts of the island and the quality of the leaf.
At the 2009 Moku O Keawe International Festival, the group will host two days of classes. Both on Saturday and Sunday, November 7 and 8, new workshops will be given. They will teach how to make a Pale Ipu, including cleaning, prep, and stripping of the lauhala into lengths. The moena (mat) weave is a checkerboard pattern and called the papa konane weave. This weaving pattern will be used to make the Pale Ipu. The “pale” is the protective pad that sits between the ipu heke (drum) and the floor. It can be described as the impact cradle that also serves as a resonant damper. This will be a 12×12” double weave mat made with ¾ inch strips of lauhala.
The club recently spent a weekend picking, rolling and softening lau from a large puhala tree at a member’s home near Puako. The leaves were long and wide, perfect for weaving moena (mats). As the tree was cleaned, the members of various levels of weaving skills worked together to prepare the lauhala that will be used to make the Pale Ipu at the workshop. Kupuna Aunty Elizabeth Maluihi Lee was there to share her wisdom and history – stories of her lifelong weaving.
The members share a love for lauhala weaving and a desire to impart the knowledge they have gained from the Kumu and Kupuna of the club. A most respected and prolific weaver still in his youth, Pohaku Kahoohanohano of Maui, has gifted the club with a mele about the steps in preparing and weaving lauhala and it will be shared with the students.
For more information on the workshop, visit www.mokuokeawe.org, the official website for the Moku O Keawe International Festival.