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LEI: WEAVING ANCIENT INTO THE MODERN

April 15 2022 – Kanani Durant

LEI: WEAVING ANCIENT INTO THE MODERN
LEI: WEAVING ANCIENT INTO THE MODERN

Lei: Weaving Ancient into the Modern

Lei, the beautiful expression of Hawaiian culture itself,  a physical manifestation of ancient knowledge and expression woven in a timeless bond of aloha, is about to take center stage once again at the Merrie Monarch Festival. See all the hues of the rainbow, bold and subtle textures, delicate blooms, lacy ferns, and shiny shells all intricately woven or sewn into almost every type of lei. In less than a week, we will witness an abundance of lei both traditional and modern, fashioned to adorn the kumu and their hula dancers as they take the stage.These lei make for the perfect eye candy for any lei lover and will truly inspire you to learn more about this art form.

 History of Lei

Lei is one of the many native Hawaiian practices that have survived into the modern day. This art form arrived in Hawai’i with the earliest of Polynesian voyagers and is deeply associated with all aspects of Hawaiian life.  Lei were worn from the most elite royalty to the common farmer and fisherman.  While some lei were fashioned to signify rank and wealth, others were simply made to express joy. 

 This beautiful art of lei is as boundless as the aloha it is intended to express.

Traditionally, a lei was created as an offering to one of the numerous revered akua (gods/goddesses). Specific lei materials, whether flower or foliage, known as kino lau, were considered physical manifestations of that akua and were specifically sought and used in the lei that was offered. When gathering, especially kino lau, the lei maker was required to recite chants to honor the akua and ask for permission to gather. These cultural protocols continue to exist today.  

Lei is also commonly seen adorning hula dancers.  When presenting traditional hula, there are strict rules on the selection of materials and the style used to make the lei. Like the lei for religious offerings, lei used in traditional dance use kino lau as well.  The materials gathered are considered the embodiment of the akua and expert dancers or ‘ølapa that go through the cultural protocols to adorn themselves with these materials are known to transform in dance to become a representation of the kinolau of the honored akua.


More commonly, lei are gifted to express aloha to the recipient, to honor someone for their achievments, or simply to adorn someone to express joy.  In this regard, cultural protocol of asking permission to gather and weaving only the best of intentions in the lei are still present.  This is because the recipient is not only receiving an adornment of beautiful flowers and foliage, but the mana (power/essence) of the materials and all involved in the process of making the lei.

So, if you get a chance to watch the Merrie Monarch Hula Competition next week, pay attention to all the different lei that will be present.  Traditional lei and lei materials will be present in kahiko performances and more modern lei during the ‘auana performances.  Lei will also be seen adorning announcers, musicians, and the audience.  Tune in to feast your eyes on the beauty of lei, be transferred in time by the beating of the drums, be entranced by the swaying movements of the dancers, be serenaded by the musicians and their heavenly voices, and celebrate with us the beauty of Hawaiian culture.

   

10 comments

  • Iva: April 25, 2022
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    I absolutely love and adore each of the leis made & I can’t wait to learn more about each lei and the meaning behind it.

  • Rebekah: April 21, 2022
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    Thank you for always inviting us into the celebration and beauty of Aloha through lei making. I am so excited to be a part of this lei club!

  • Joell Edwards: April 21, 2022
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    So honored to be part of the Lei club.
    Watching Merrie Monarch wishing I could be there in person!

  • Lauren: April 20, 2022
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    Mahalo for the Lei Club. I am excited to finally be back at Merrie Monarch to watch live all the halau and to see all the beautiful lei. Mahalo again for creating this club

  • Kauanahe Albino-Kaupu: April 20, 2022
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    What a refreshing read! Mahalo for educating us about the beautiful mo’olelo behind lei and the cultural practices. Can’t wait to see the beautiful lei at Merrie Monarch this year. The most beautiful time of the year.

  • Sonia Vargas : April 20, 2022
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    Love reading da post !!!! And even more to be part of da Lei Club !!! What a fun idea !!!! Can’t wait to see u guys at the store on April 30th and get my T-shirt , Bag and Lei !!!! Aloha O’E

  • Sonia Vargas : April 20, 2022
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    Love reading da post !!!! And even more to be part of da Lei Club !!! What a fun idea !!!! Can’t wait to see u guys at the store on April 30th and get my T-shirt , Bag and Lei !!!! Aloha O’E

  • Ka’imiakua : April 18, 2022
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    Amazing! So exciting!

  • Shy: April 15, 2022
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    Marrie Monarch is such a treat! I’ll make sure to take note on the lei. As it is every year, Marrie Monarch is such an amazing time of the year. Each halau spends so much time on costumes, it is a true display of the love and aloha they have for our traditions as Kanaka. Looking forward to watching it on tv next week 💜

  • Shy: April 15, 2022
    Author's avatar image

    Marrie Monarch is such a treat! I’ll make sure to take note on the lei. As it is every year, Marrie Monarch is such an amazing time of the year. Each halau spends so much time on costumes, it is a true display of the love and aloha they have for our traditions as Kanaka. Looking forward to watching it on tv next week 💜

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