Janet Kahalekomo has been making paakai (sea salt) in the salt ponds of Hanapepe on Kauai for more than 60 years. In ancient times only a few were chosen for this arduous work, and the knowledge was passed from generation to generation.
"My kupuna (ancestors) were salt makers, and I am passing the tradition to my great-grandchildren," Kahalekomo said. "They represent the eighth generation of salt makers in my family."
During the salt-making season, which usually runs from May through October, Kahalekomo is at her family’s ponds every day. There are various ways to make paakai; each family has its own special technique, all of which require patience, dedication and hard manual labor.
NA LIMA HANA FESTIVAL
» Place: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, 1571 Poipu Road, Poipu, Kauai
» Dates: Oct. 21-23
» Admission: Free for most activities and events. Nominal fees for materials for some demonstrations.
» Phone: 808-240-6369
» E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
» Online: nalimahana.wetpaint.com
From keiki to kupuna, every member of Kahalekomo’s family is involved with salt making. The preparation alone requires a lot of work: The ponds must be cleaned, and the tools and equipment — shovels, baskets, buckets and burlap bags — must be gathered and organized.
"We spend many hours at the ponds, rain or shine," Kahalekomo said. "Our backs ache from bending. We get very dirty and muddy, but the joy we feel when we harvest beautiful white salt makes it all worthwhile."
Kahalekomo and her ohana are among the revered keepers of Hawaiian culture who will participate in the Na Lima Hana Festival at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in a few weeks. "’Na Lima Hana’ means ‘many hands working,’" said Stella Burgess, the hotel’s director of Hawaiian culture and community affairs. "That is the premise of this event about Hawaiian cultural traditions and healing practices: Most things in life require the effort of many hands to be a success."
Demonstrations run the gamut, from laau lapaau (herbal medicine), lomilomi massage and kakau (tattooing) to petroglyphs, lau hala weaving and kapa (tapa) making. According to Burgess, learning through all the senses will be encouraged. By engaging in hands-on activities and personal interaction with knowledgeable artisans and healers, she believes visitors will gain a deeper understanding of the Hawaiian culture.
Those attending the annual conference of the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association’s Kauai chapter on Oct. 22 can linger at seven workstations focused on subjects such as oli (chant), aho (sennit necklace) and hano ohe ihu (bamboo nose flute). At the end of the conference, the cultural experts will form a panel to field questions.
"The intent of the Na Lima Hana Festival is to provide visitors with opportunities to learn about ancient traditions directly from the people who are practicing them," Burgess said. "They will gain insights into who we Hawaiians are, our history and our way of life. The education process will continue because they will then go home and tell their loved ones about it."
"Talk-story" sessions and interactive demonstrations are the key elements of the festival. "As its name says, the Na Lima Hana Festival is about many hands working to teach and to learn traditional practices such as pounding poi, weaving lau hala bracelets, making flower lei and more," Burgess said. "In this way the Hawaiian culture will be shared and perpetuated."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.
This is a partial list of events. They’re subject to change; a complete, current schedule is on the website.
Craft fair: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Ilima foyer and Stevenson’s Library foyer
Grand Hyatt Kauai Luau: 6 to 8:30 p.m., Luau Garden (weather permitting). Call 808-742-1234, ext. 4403, or e-mail email@example.com.
Health and healing practices: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Grand Ballroom:
» Momi Subiano: herbal medicine
Hawaiian buffet lunch: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Grand Ballroom. $30 for adults, $20 for ages 12 through 17, $12 ages 5 through 11. Children 4 and under free.
Hooponi Laa Pahu (Naming of the Drums) ceremony: 10:45 a.m., Grand Ballroom. Three drums will be named for three brothers who were alii (royalty) on Kauai in the 1500s.
Henry Kapono performance: 11:30 a.m., Grand Ballroom
Performance by Tsunami Taiko: 9 a.m., atrium lobby
Craft demonstrations: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Ilima foyer, Stevenson’s Library foyer and Seaview Terrace:
» Janet Kahalekomo and her family: salt making; taro and poi pounding; uses of the coconut; and uses of the kukui nut, including candles and inamona relish
Health and healing practices: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Garden Island Room IV and V
» Hoku Gordines: egoscue, a series of stretches and gentle exercises to strengthen muscles and bring the body into proper alignment
Pa Hula Na Kane o Keoneloa performance: 8 p.m., lobby
HAWAII HOTEL & LODGING ASSOCIATION KAUAI CHAPTER CONFERENCE
Events take place on Oct. 22; $35 fee. To register, call Jolene Ogle at 808-246-5149 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awa (kava) ceremony: 7 a.m., Grand Court (no charge for this part of the conference)
Registration and continental breakfast: 8:30 a.m.,
» Charles Kaupu: chant
Poke contest: 10 a.m., Grand Ballroom (free). Amateur and professional cooks compete. Learn about the ingredients and steps involved for each recipe.