Woven together: 23rd Annual Lauhala Weaving conference perpetuates, shares cultures

  • Participants gather for the 23rd Annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference Wednesday at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kumiko Misago from Japan weaves a hat at the 23rd annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference.

  • Chelsey Dickson, left, learns to weave a basket under the direction of Kumu Alice Kawamoto at the 23rd Annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference Wednesday at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Students learn bracelet weaving at the 23rd Annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference Wednesday at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Sydney Chin, left, gets pointers from Kumu Hulali Jewell at the 23rd annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference Wednesday at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Kumu Wesley Sen teaches a weaving technique to Joshua Mason at the 23rd annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference Wednesday.

  • A student weaves a hat at the 23rd Annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Conference Wednesday at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The late Aunty Elizabeth “Maluihi” Lee, founder of Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona, had one mission, to “perpetuate, preserve and ensure the growth of traditional art of Lauhala Weaving.”

At the 23rd annual festival being held at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, her legacy lives on. Twenty-eight kumu, or teachers, guided 120 haumana, students, from throughout the state, mainland and Japan in the fine art of weaving.

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Participants were hard at work in the ballroom creating hats, baskets, fans, bracelets and other woven items this week. An occasional burst of laughter broke the silent concentration of those creating. Kumu hovered over students with helpful expertise.

Joshua Mason of the Squaxin Island Tribe outside Olympia, Washington, was attending the conference for the first time. Despite using different materials, he commented on the similarities with his tribal weaving as Kumu Wesley Sen stood over him and offered pointers.

“I’m here to learn and share your culture,” Mason said, adding that the art of weaving is about people making wares for other people.

Sydney Chin, 13, was one of the youngest participants, weaving an intricate bracelet. When asked where she learned to weave she replied, “My mom took me to classes before and we have a good kumu.”

“It’s wonderful to perpetuate it with Sydney,” her kumu, Hulali Jewell, said. “In a few years, she can perpetuate it, too.”

Jewell’s passion for keeping the art alive will be shared with locals and visitors when she offers classes at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in June.

“Any weaver that is stumped can come see me at the visitor’s center,” Jewell said. “I’ll do my best to unstump them.”

Sharing and passing on the knowledge is what brings the kumu together for this annual event.

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“It just needs to continue,” Jewell said as she made her way around the table and offering suggestions to her students.

The sold out conference continues through Saturday. Visitors are welcome to stop by and watch masters and their students at work and browse the craft fair.

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