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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

The inaugural Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Po‘e Hawai‘i: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People was hosted by OHA and the PAʻI Foundation on June 12, 2017. The event honored five living master practitioners and knowledge keepers, along with two posthumous members who are living in our memories.

2017 Living Treasures

Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Po‘e Hawai‘i:
Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People

OHA Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Po‘e Hawai‘i: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People held its formal inauguration on June 12, Kamehameha Day, 2017. This community-driven event honored five living master practitioners and knowledge keepers, along with two posthumous members who are living in our memories. They are:

  • Patience Nāmaka Bacon of O‘ahufor hula
  • Josephine Fergerstrom of Hawai‘i Islandfor lauhala weaving
  • Sam Ka‘ai of Mauifor carving
  • Marie McDonald of Hawai‘i Islandfor lei making and kapa making
  • Nainoa Thompson of O‘ahufor navigating

The two posthumous awards are awarded to:

  • Elizabeth Malu‘ihi Ako Lee of Hawai‘i Island – for lauhala weaving
  • Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad of Hawai‘i Island – for videography, documentary
Mamo Makamae Ka Wai Ola June 2017

Click to download a PDF version of the Mamo Makamae four-page instert to Ka Wai Ola June 2017.

These Treasures were nominated and selected by a group of cultural experts and practitioners. OHA is collaborating with PA‘I Foundation in the spirit of kākou to honor these recipients to produce this inaugural and important ho‘omau event at Pōmaikai Ballrooms at Dole Cannery.

While other organizations honor living treasures, Hawaiian organizations haven’t had their own program to honor our kūpuna and esteemed elders. “They are not just keepers of the flame, they are the connection and bridge to our past,” said OHA Ka Pouhana (CEO) Kamana‘opono Crabbe. “The more we learn from our kūpuna and apply what we learn from them, the more we maintain that bond with our ancestors, our homeland, and our identity as kanaka ‘ōiwi.”

PA‘I Foundation Executive Director Victoria Holt Takamine said, “The PA‘I Foundation is pleased to provide partnership support to this important event, which aligns well with the PA‘I Foundation mission of preserving and protecting Native Hawaiian culture and arts for future generations.”

Patience Nāmaka Bacon: The Eyes of Kawena

By Manu Boyd

By the time Pat Nāmaka Bacon was in her teens, the Kaua‘i-born girl of Japanese descent was thoroughly immersed in Hawaiian culture, nurtured in the old ways by her hānai ‘ohana. Patience Elmay Nāmakauahoaokawena‘ulaokalaniikiikikalaninui Wiggin Bacon grew up to be a much sought-after resource on nā mea Hawai‘i – a font of information influenced deeply by her hānai mother, Mary Kawena Pukui. But the 1920 Honolulu adoption of the plantation infant was made formal by Kawena’s own parents, Pa‘ahana and Henry Wiggin. In those days, the Humane Society is where one could adopt dogs, horses, or waifs.

For decades prior to her retirement, her various offices at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum were the settings for long visits with countless folks eager to tap into her deep knowledge of hula, Hawaiian poetry, and the ways of the “oldsters” as she respectfully refers to kūpuna. That knowledge was committed to memory, nurtured and shared over the years due to the scores of friendships and relationships Kawena fostered over time with those of earlier generations from throughout Hawai‘i nei. Kawena’s rich knowledge and older Hawaiian worldview is evidenced in ‘Ōlelo No‘eau – Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings published by Bishop Museum Press in 1986.

During my handful of years at Bishop Museum in the 1980s, I spent many hours in delightful conversations at the desk of “Mrs. B” as I call her, reviewing with her my novice attempts at haku mele – Hawaiian poetical composition. Rather than correcting my Hawaiian, she would point out words and phrases and share with me subtle nuances and connotations that needed to be avoided or reconsidered. She would send me back to the “drawing board” on many occasions, and when I would return with my reworked mele, she almost always reacted with encouraging feedback and approval.

For someone with such humility, deep knowledge and experience, Pat Nāmaka Bacon has an amazing sense of humor. Her late husband, George Bacon, upped the ante with humor as his specialty, making their home La‘i Aloha one filled with laughter, joy and aloha.

Along with her mother Kawena, Nāmaka Bacon studied hula with three masters: Keahi Luahine and her cousin, a man named Kapua; and Joseph ‘Īlālā‘ole. Her soft, subtle kuhi lima (hand gestures), swaying kīkala (hips) and maka ‘ālohilohi (expressive eyes) are characteristic of the Kaua‘i style of hula she is most familiar with as taught by Keahi and Kapua. Hula learned from ‘Īlālā‘ole were of the more animated Hawai‘i island style.

I’m sure that if she was viewing the the recent Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, she must have recognized the impact of her teachers and traditions, especially by those kumu hula and hālau who stayed true to the choreography as taught by hula masters gone before them. ′

Josephine Kaukali Fergerstrom: Weaving a legacy

By Marques Marzan

Ulana lau hala, pandanus plaiting, has an enduring lineage in Hawai‘i. It was brought to our shores centuries ago by Polynesian settlers and continues to be a vibrant part of the local landscape of these islands. Starting in the 1990s, a handful of master lau hala weavers, like Josephine Fergerstrom, consciously decided to share their knowledge publicly, establishing organizations with the sole purpose of perpetuating this art form. With encouragement from friends and supporters, she was able to begin two lau hala groups of her own, Ulana Lau Hala O Kona and ‘Ohi Lau Hala, both based in Kona, Hawai‘i.

Josephine Kaukali Fergerstrom was born in Kealakekua on 10 December 1926, and later raised in Kahalu‘u, Kona by her parents, Herman and Elizabeth Ka‘ilikini. She grew up with hala trees in the yard and learned at a young age how to prepare the leaves for her mother’s weaving. Her mother wouldn’t let her weave, only clean lau hala. When she was 7-years old, she visited her paternal grandmother who taught her how to weave pāpale (hats). After inspecting and approving her work, her grandmother told young Josephine to tell her mother to let her help with the weaving and not just with the cleaning process. From that point on, she was able to help her mother weave to support the family.

Aunty Josephine, as she is affectionately called, is a generous supporter of local organizations, weaving pāpale and other lau hala products to support community events and to raise funds for various programs. Her selflessness has been recognized both locally and statewide, having received the 2009 Hōlualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture’s Ua Mākaukau Loa Award and being named Living Treasure of Hawai‘i by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i in 2011. Even with her many accolades, she remains a humble and sharing person, willing to teach anyone interested in learning. She is a major source of inspiration in the lau hala weaving community of Hawai‘i and epitomizes aloha in every way.

Aunty Josephine’s students can attest to the joy she brings to weaving occasions. Her laugh, smile and stories are unforgettable. The love and happiness that fills the room because of her presence is a quality that many of her students strive to emulate. She is looked upon as a role model by multiple generations of weavers, numerous circles of friends, family and community members alike. Much like the number of pāpale she is estimated to have made in her lifetime, well over 27,000 at this point, Aunty Josephine is amazing indeed. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Nā Mamo Makamae o ka Po‘e Hawai‘i: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People Award is an honor she certainly deserves.

Sam Ka‘ai: The Carrier of the Word

By L.G. Mahi La Pierre

Maui’s own, Sam Kaha‘ieuanalio Ka‘ai, is a world-renowned creative force, visionary, cultural icon, orator, keeper of knowledge, and a vessel of multi-cultural stories and traditions arguably as deep as the Pacific Ocean and as elevated and extensive as Haleakalā. The charismatic son and grandson of canoe makers, he has come to be the expression of his middle name, Kaha‘ieuanalio, “the carrier of the word.” He has touched many people’s lives from places near and far, and across many oceans, continents, and time zones. Ka‘ai shares, “We are not like our ancestors of the past,” but believes that although we may never know the breadth of what they knew, felt, smelled, tasted, saw or heard, we do have their DNA and knowledge within us.

He was born in 1938 in Hāna and raised in Wailuku and Waiehu. Under the guidance of his granduncle, Lihau Ka‘aihue, and his Marciel ‘ohana, Ka‘ai was entrusted with volumes of knowledge. His Kaupō kūpuna were the piko from whom he developed, honed, and nurtured his skill and passion as a master carver, artisan, teacher, mentor, historian, and spiritual leader. Ka‘ai’s transformation into a “carrier of the word” is articulated in part by the ‘ōlelo no‘eau, “He mēheuheu mai nā kūpuna,” which means, “habits acquired from ancestors.”

In the 1950s, Ka‘ai attended Central Intermediate School and McKinley High School in Honolulu. At the Honolulu Academy of Arts, he learned illustration from Joseph Feher, who wrote and illustrated Hawaii: A Pictorial History in 1969. He also learned sculpture from Edward M. Brownlee, coming to class with the adzes passed down from his kūpuna. From an early age, Ka‘ai was already well versed with tools of his canoe-building ancestors. Ka‘ai remarked, “I had to learn to sharpen the adzes or you would be considered worthless.” He was so advanced in his skills in carving and tool use that he taught the sculpture course the following year. Naturally curious and a voracious learner, Ka‘ai taught himself to make and create Hawaiian carvings, fish hooks, and cordage – at the same time being sure that he knew, or would seek and find out, each item’s connected genealogy, chants, and mo‘olelo.

We honor Sam Kaha‘ieuanalio Ka‘ai as one of our loved, admired, and respected treasures who ‘auamo (carry) our cultural knowledge forward acting as conduits in bridging the traditions, practices, history, values, beliefs, essence and other ways of knowing of our ancestors from the distant past into the present, ensuring they will survive and thrive. Ho‘omākaukau! Ka‘ai is not even close to putting down his adzes and kuleana in carrying the word and culture forward – there is still much to hāpai, bring forth, learn, share, and perpetuate. Mahalo nunui and Hūlō e Kaha‘ieuanalio!

Elizabeth Malu‘ihi Ako Lee: Ho‘olaula- ‘ia Ka Ulana Lauhala

By Kalani Akana

Ua hānau ‘ia ‘o Elizabeth Malu‘ihi Ako Lee i ka lā 26 o Ianuali, mh.1926 na James lāua ‘o Lily Kanoholani Ako. ‘O Hōlualoa, Moku o Keawe kāhi a Malu‘ihi i hānau ‘ia ai. He 13 mau keiki o ka ‘ohana Ako. Ua lawe hānai ‘ia ‘o Malu‘ihi e ka hoahānau o kona makuakāne, ‘o Kinooulu Kahananui kona inoa.

‘O kona makuahine hānai,‘o Tūtū Haleaka, ka mea nāna i a‘o iā Malu‘ihi i ka hana ulana lauhala mai ka ‘ohi ‘ana i ka lau, ka ho‘oma‘ema‘e ‘ana i ka lau, ka hana küka‘a, a i ka ulana lauhala. ‘O ke kaila ulana “piko” ka mea āna i a‘o ‘ia ai ma kona piha makahiki he ‘umi. Ua a‘o nō ho‘i ‘o ia i ka ulana pāpale a kü‘ai aku ‘o ia i kāna pāpale no hapahā kēneka i mea e kōkua aku ai i ka ‘ohana.

Ua male ‘o Malu‘ihi iā Robert E. Lee Sr. ma ka makahiki 1949. ‘Ehā a lāua keiki. He ‘iwakāluakumamahā āna mo‘opuna a ‘elua āna mo‘opuna kualua. Ua hana ‘o ia ma ke ke‘ena o Kauka Thomas Mar ma ka Haukapila Kaiäulu o Kona, ma Grayline, ma Kona Inn, ma ka hale pule ‘o Moku‘aikaua, ma ke kalaiwa ka‘a ‘ōhua kula, a ma käna hana hope loa ma ke ke‘ena mälama haukapila.

I mea e ho‘onui ai i ke aloha o ka hana nala lauhala a me ka ‘ike kupuna, ua ho‘okumu ‘o Malu‘ihi me kāna ‘ohana kaikamahine ‘o Edine Ako iā “Ka Ulu Lauhala o Kona” i ka makahiki 1995. Ua ho‘omaka ‘ia me 20 mau kānaka wale nō. I kēlā me kēia mau makahiki ua ulu a nunui ka hoihoi a ua ‘oi aku ka heluna haumāna a he 1000 a ‘oi mau kānaka ma ia hanana ulana lauhala. Kūpaianaha!

Ua ho‘ohanohano ‘ia ‘o Malu‘ihi Lee e OHA ma 1993 a e MAMo ma ka makahiki 2008 ma ka Hale Hō‘ike‘ike o Pihopa a ma laila ho‘i i hō‘ike ‘ia ai kāna mau hana po‘okela o ka lauhala. He lālā ‘o ia o ka ‘Ahahui ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i a me ka Hui Sivila ‘o Kuini Pi‘olani. Ua mo‘olelo pinepine ‘o ia ma “Mānaleo” a ma ka ‘Aha Mānaleo e pili ana i ka nala lauhala ‘ana a ‘a‘ole pakemo hewa ka lima iā ia e nala ana i ka manawa like o ka nīnau ‘ia ‘ana a me kāna ha‘i ‘ōlelo ‘ana. Kūpaianaha wale!

Ma kona ho‘olewa ma kāna ‘Ekalesia ‘o Moku‘aikaua ua nani ka ‘ike ‘ana aku i nā pāpale lauhala o kāna mau haumäna i a‘o ai ‘o Malu‘ihi – he ‘o‘eno ‘oe, he moena ‘oe, a he ‘ānoni ‘oe. He hō‘ike nō kēlā i kā Malu‘ihi hana ho‘omau a me kona aloha nala lauhala! ′

Marie McDonald: Making Art Happen

By Sabra Kauka

For Marie McDonald’s lifetime of dedication to and mastery of the Hawaiian arts of kapa and lei, for the books she has published and the projects she has led, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs honors her.

From crazy idea to award winning project

When Marie McDonald called in 2010 to ask me to join her in making a kapa pa‘u for Hālau O Kekuhi to wear at the 2011 Merrie Monarch Festival Hō‘ike, I told her the idea was crazy. When she stipulated that the kapa must be made in the traditional way and the dyes must be natural, I knew how much time and effort it would take. When she asked if I would do it, I and 28 other kapa makers agreed. The result of this collaboration was a magnificent explosion of creative pa‘u designs at the 2011 Merrie Monarch Festival using painstaking traditional kapa techniques.

A documentary film entitled “Ka Hana Kapa” was produced about this project with funding from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and featured on Hawai‘i Public Television.

Contemporary creations on a traditional foundation

Marie McDonald’s passionate wish is for Hawaiian artists to express new visions using traditional techniques. “Make new things happen,” she said. “I have explored past history to death, now it’s time to go on.” She expects people to produce more graphic, dramatic, vivid and strong work. To be creative in their own right. To have crazy ideas and to act on them.

She wants to see a lot of people with crazy ideas come together to create the art that is unique to our time. “I want people to continue making kapa. I want them to continue making natural dyes. I encourage them to be as creative as they want in their designs.”

In her own art works, the colors and designs that she uses on her kapa art pieces show an amazing and unique creativity.

History and abbreviated list of accomplishments

  • 1926 – Born on Moloka‘i from the Mahoe line of chiefs, and the Adams family of New England
  • Graduated from Kamehameha Schools and Texas Women’s University
  • Art teacher in the public schools
  • Lives on Honopua Farm, Waimea, Hawai‘i with her daughter Roen
  • Hufford and son-in-law Ken Hufford.
  • 1985 – Ka Lei: The Leis of Hawaii, the authoritative source on the subject
  • 1990 – National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellowship
  • 2003 – Na Lei Makamae with co-author Paul Weissich. Received the Samuel M. Kamakau Award for the Hawai‘i Book of the Year.
  • 2008-2009 He Ho‘ala Ana exhibit, Honolulu Museum of Art
  • 2010 – Alfred Preis Honoree by the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance
  • 2010 – HOEA, Hawaiian ‘Ohana for Education in the Arts, instructor and supporter
  • 2011 – Kapa Pā‘ū Project at the Merrie Monarch Festival Hō‘ike
  • 2014 – Kapa Pā‘ū II project for Hälau O Kekuhi at Maui Arts & Culture Center
  • 2014 – Mohala Hou Ke Kapa, Exhibit at Maui Arts & Culture Center
  • 2016 – Kapa Kahilu, exhibit at Kahilu Gallery in Waimea, Hawai‘i.

Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad:  Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina – The Eyes of the Land

By Joan Lander

Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad
October 24, 1937 – February 9, 2016

Abraham “Puhipau” Ahmad was a Hawaiian Kingdom patriot and documentary filmmaker with Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina who dedicated his life to enlightening himself, his people and the world about Hawaiian history, sovereignty and aloha ‘āina.

He was born in Hilo to Caroline Aku of Kealia, Kona, and Abraham Ahmad, formerly of Palestine. Raised in Keaukaha and on O‘ahu, he attended the Kamehameha Schools (Class of ’55) and was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Oregon. He worked in the Merchant Marine for 10 years, sailing around South America, and to the North Pacific and Asia, while raising three sons in California with his wife Vivian Aulani (Fish) Ahmad.

Returning to Hawai‘i, he eventually found himself in the middle of a land rights struggle at Sand Island in Honolulu Harbor, where a group of Hawaiians, unable to afford the high cost of living, had established a community in an area used as a rubbish dump. They subsisted off the sea, living the lifestyle of their ancestors in one of the most productive fisheries on O‘ahu, Mokauea. In 1980, Puhipau and others were evicted and arrested by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, an event that was documented by Victoria Keith and Jerry Rochford in “The Sand Island Story” and broadcast on PBS stations throughout the United States.
During the subsequent trials, Puhipau read Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen. Determined to document the history of Hawai‘i and its culture under threat, he formed a video production team with Joan Lander called Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina (“The Eyes of the Land”).

Over the next 36 years they produced numerous documentaries, recording efforts to protect the district of Ka‘ū, the rainforests of Puna, ancient burials on Maui at Kapalua, the sacred landscape of Mauna Kea, historic sites and anchialine ponds at Kohanaiki, the streams of Waiāhole and East Maui, the valley of Mākua and the island of Kaho‘olawe. They focused on the efforts of families to hold onto ancestral land, from Waimea, Makua and Waimānalo on O‘ahu to the remote area of Ka Lae. Knowledge of fishponds, lo‘i kalo, ahupua‘a management, ocean navigation, healing and horticulture were documented, along with the revival of the Hawaiian language, hula, music and art. Historic events such as the attempted overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom were explored as well as subsequent efforts to restore recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty. (See www.HawaiianVoice.com.)

Puhipau personally brought his story to film festival audiences in Berlin, Yamagata, New York City, Santa Cruz and Aotearoa. Nā Maka o ka ‘Āina productions have been seen on television networks in Hawai‘i, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Okinawa and Canada, and have been used as part of educational curricula in classrooms and universities throughout the islands and the world. ¢

Nainoa Thompson: Navigating the past, present and future

By Kathy Muneno

Nainoa Thompson grew up on his grandfather’s dairy in the ahupua‘a of Niu on the island of O‘ahu. He is the son of a social worker, Myron “Pinky” Thompson, and of a champion for the environment, Laura Thompson.

Nainoa’s identity is defined by who he calls the “greater navigators”: Mau Piailug, Will Kyselka, Eddie Aikau and his father. Nainoa says his greatest navigator is his father, who taught him how to navigate his life and how to stand up for what he believes in.

Nainoa’s first teacher in the ocean was a Niu Dairy deliveryman Yoshio Kawano, who took Nainoa as a little boy to Maunalua Bay. At the age of 20, Nainoa volunteered to help Herb Kawainui Kane sail a small prototype of Hawai‘i’s first voyaging canoe in 600 years. Herb pointed to the heavens and shared his dream of the stars guiding the canoe to Tahiti. Nainoa’s life changed instantly. He was selected as a crew member on Hōkūle‘a’s first return voyage from Tahiti to Hawai‘i in 1976. In 1980, after studying with Hōkūle‘a’s first navigator Mau Piailug and Bishop Museum planetarium lecturer Will Kyselka, Nainoa became the first native Hawaiian to navigate a deep sea voyaging canoe to Tahiti and back, without instruments, since such voyaging ended in Hawai‘i around the 14th century. Nainoa created a system of wayfinding that synthesizes his teachings and discoveries and has gone on to teach dozens of others across the Pacific.

Nainoa is a graduate of Punahou School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Ocean Science at the University of Hawai‘i. He is the President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and driven by a vision of not only exploration and perpetuation of voyaging and wayfinding, but of a healthy, caring island earth for children and generations of children ahead.

Nainoa serves as a trustee of Hanahau‘oli School and served as a trustee of Kamehameha Schools from 2001 to 2011. He also serves as a special advisor to the President of the University of Hawai‘i on Native Hawaiian affairs and is Regent Emeritus of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents.

Nainoa doesn’t want his awards listed but here are some, with a clear message that they represent the work of Hōkūle‘a and the thousands who have supported her voyages over the past 42 years: the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award from the National Education Association, the Manomano Ka‘ike Educator of the Year Award from the Native Hawaiian Education Association, National Geographic’s highest honor the “Hubbard Medal,” the Explorer’s Club highest honor “Explorers Club Medal,” and an honorary Doctorate from the University of Hawai‘i.

2020 Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Po‘e Hawai‘i:
Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will be accepting nominations for Nā Mamo Makamae o ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi starting June 11, 2019, the agency’s third Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People program.

In the spirit of Hoʻoulu Lāhui Aloha, the selection committee encourages the community to participate in nominating and framing Nā Mamo Makamae o ka Poʻe Hawaiʻi

Nominees should exemplify OHA’s core values and guiding principles:

  1. Poʻokela: Individual or group has attained a high level of mastery in the Hawaiian culture and arts.
  2. Hoʻomau: Individual or group demonstrated and continues to demonstrate growth and learning and teaching in the area of mastery.
  3. Kūlia: The contribution of the artist a) inspires lāhui and b) takes and spreads mana Hawaiʻi throughout Hawaiʻi and beyond (e.g. through publications and DVDs).
  4. Mālama kekahi i kekahi: Artist’s works are made relevant to the times and environment. Relatedness and relationships are built.
  5. Moʻokūʻauhau: Individual has seniority and rank.

The nomination form will be made available on June 11, 2019 for our 2020 Awards Ceremony (date TBD). For more information, email OHA Cultural Specialist Kalani Akana at kalania@oha.org.


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