Exhibit showcases the vibrancy and significance of lau hala weaving

Bishop Museum invites visitors to a multi-sensory and vibrant realm where the science and culture of the traditional Hawaiian art of lau hala weaving intersect. Nani I Ka Hala: Weaving Hawai‘i is an original exhibition that will explore the rich ulana (weaving) heritage linking Pacific islanders, carried forward in modern Hawai‘i by a thriving community of contemporary lau hala artists. Visitors will explore the dynamic dimensions of this art form through interactive displays, videos, music and artifacts, while also examining the ethnobotany of the hala plant (pandanus) and the recent threats to its existence. Nani I Ka Hala: Weaving Hawai‘i will be on exhibit in J. M. Long Gallery from March 28-July 27, 2015.

From traditional mats and containers to iPad covers and eyeglass cases, both historical and contemporary examples of lau hala products will be on display. Prominently placed by the gallery entrance will be a full-size (16 feet tall) lau hala canoe sail that was collected by Dr. Kenneth Emory in Kapingamarangi — the only traditional sail in Bishop Museum’s collection and an object never previously exhibited! In addition, visitors can see the personal lau hala hat collection of Ke Ali‘i Pauahi and visit a virtual hat gallery where they will be able to “try on” a large assortment of lau hala hats to find the one that best matches their personal style. The heart of the exhibit will be a multi-dimensional “hala grove” that will include a large-screen video installation, stations with touch screens where master lau hala weavers will share their stories, displays profiling the tools and techniques used by weavers, and examples of innovative creations by contemporary lau hala artists. Visitors will have an opportunity to try their hands at weaving a small lau hala piece to take home or participate in a daily guided workshop to learn how to make a lau hala bracelet. Lau hala bracelet kits may be also purchased at Bishop Museum’s Shop Pacifica.

“The hala plant is a valued resource in the Pacific because of its flexibility as a material and its scalability to nearly any application, however large or small,” said Marques Marzan, cultural research specialist at Bishop Museum. “Many people today are familiar with lau hala mats and baskets; but in fact, the very sails that first brought people to these islands were made of lau hala.”

The exhibit also aims to increase community awareness about the hala plant and current threats to its health following the recent arrival of an invasive scale insect that has been attacking the trees statewide. Master weavers are now partnering with biologists in an urgent effort to protect this vital plant. These themes are also captured in a new publication related to this project titled ʻIke Ulana Lau Hala: The Vitality and Vibrancy of Lau Hala Weaving Traditions in Hawaiʻi. This book is now on sale in Bishop Museum’s Shop Pacifica.

Nani I Ka Hala: Weaving Hawai‘i arises from the work of three partnering institutions: Michigan State University Museum, Hawaiʻinuiākea at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and Bishop Museum Cultural Resources Division. Funding for this exhibition was provided by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Nordstrom Foundation.


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