12th Annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona

Weavers Highlight Much-Anticipated Event

By: Jamie Wetherbe

The 12th Annual Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Weaving Conference returns to Kona Village Resort on Hawaii’s Big Island from Wednesday, May 16 through Saturday evening, May 19.

Of all the ancient Hawaiian weaving arts, lau hala is the most practiced today in part because hala (pandanus) trees are easily found. In the 19th century, an increase in trade with the outside world brought cotton cloth and containers, leather goods and man-made fibers. Weaving declined and the skill disappeared almost entirely.

In the 1930s, weaving was a way of life for some Big Island families who made everything from hats to coffee-picking baskets to trade for food at plantation stores. Today, dozens of Big Island weavers still deliver their “freshly woven” purses, hats, table and floor mats, eyeglass cases and bracelets to a variety of shops frequented by both residents and visitors.

Founded in 1995 by Aunty Elizabeth Maluihi Lee, who was designated a “living treasure” by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1993, the Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona Weaving Conference has become a mecca of sorts for teachers, members and visitors.

While Lee's first love was lau hala, she has also become one of the few weavers of makaloa, a slender reed that grows in brackish ponds along the seashore. When she began studying its possibilities, it had been 200 years since anyone had made a makaloa mat.

Conference and workshop registration is $150 and includes lunch daily for four days, final night luau and membership dues to Ka Ulu Lauhala O Kona. Workshops begin Wednesday afternoon and continue daily through Saturday. Workshops are tailored for beginners, intermediate or advanced students and will be conducted by kumu (teachers) from throughout the state. Special resort rates for those registered for the conference are available.

Space is limited; for conference and workshop registration, call 808-328-2369.

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