In Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day

1 05 2010

The art of lei making is showcased today with the annual lei contest at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii after all. The public can see different styles of lei in categories of colors and age groups of the lei makers.

Last year’s 2009 grand prize winner was a drape of many strands of plumeria buds cleverly snipped and strung kui style. So simple, but different, and what an elegant statement!

Plumeria comprises the 2009 grand prize winner

The blue ribbon in last year’s mixed category was this beauty:

I apologize, I did not record the names of the lei makers, but I’m betting they are entering their creations again today.

Once, in the 1970s when we both did work for Sunset‘s Hawaii office, I had the pleasure of accompanying horticulturist Horace Clay who identified the plant materials in each lei as the contestants brought in their entries early on May 1. They came in from all islands, and Horace had a great time telling anecdotes about the plants and where or how far someone had to go to gather the material. The lei makers were so happy and proud of their lei. They had stayed up into the wee hours of the morning making them. I thought all of them were magnificent.

My friends Kamakea and Kai who come from a long family line of Hawaiian lei makers made these blue marble lei in the next photo to look like jewelry. I saw them for sale at last Saturday’s hoolaulea at Hauula Elementary School. Hawaiians use all sorts of natural plant materials, not just flowers, to adorn themselves. What looks like carved round Oriental wood beads is actually the inside of a blue marble (Elaeocarpus grandis) fruit.

Blue marble lei — by Kamakea & Kai

The brilliant blue skin is peeled away, revealing a fuzzy hairy seed. Kamakea and Kai wire brush and wash away the fuzz—a time-consuming job. They further clean out the indentations of each sphere with a Dremel tool. They drill holes for stringing and finish the necklaces with two polished kukui nuts and ribbon. Before all of that, however, they gather a supply of blue marbles. It’s a lot like fishing: seed lei makers don’t tell where their favorite spot is!

If you have time today, head on down to Kapiolani Park to see this year’s beautiful lei. They could inspire you in your own art work, in lei or other medium. In the event the judging takes a while, be prepared to wait for the viewing to open. There are other related Lei Day activities in the park to see, such as crafts and food and Hawaiian music and hula dancing.

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke
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3 responses

1 05 2011
30 06 2010
Rebekah's Studio

How wonderful! I sent you a private email with Kamakea’s contact info.

29 06 2010
leilani mateo-kihano

Aloha,
I’m interested in learning seed lei making and also would like to know if your friends Kamakea & Kai’s family will be selling their leis at a craft fair that I can attend. I live in Kaneohe and my cousin was Kahu Junior Kalili for the Hawaiian church in Punaluu.

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