weaving a tradition

Robyn Kuraoka
December 29, 2020

Her love for lau hala keeps her young, Carol Zakahi says. Her mom was a lau hala weaver in the ‘30s and ‘40s. “She would make fans and baskets, simple stuff.” It didn’t bring in a ton of money, but her mom put the money aside and it paid off in the end.

“I used to tell people that we lived in the house that lau hala built,” Zakahi says. On the Kona coast of Hawaii Island, Zakahi, now 76 years young, carries on her mother’s tradition.

Zakahi splits her time between her family’s two properties – one is up in the mountain where it’s damp and she gathers leaves from the hala trees. The other is close to her family home where it’s dry and is the perfect setting to practice her craft.

She says weaving lau hala isn’t just about sitting around and using your hands. In fact, Zakahi says the physical nature keeps her healthy. “Sometimes you have to climb the tree, a lot of times you’re bending down,” she says, “but being out in nature really helps you a lot.”

As far as passing this tradition on to the next generation, Zakahi says her children and grandchildren aren’t interested yet. But there’s still time and, until that happens, she’s happy sharing her talent with Ka Ulu Lauhala o Kona, a hui of weavers who gather annually to share their love of this native Hawaiian craft.

Photos: Ethan Tweedie

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