The Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (MNBG) has been dedicated to protecting and developing an appreciation and understanding for Maui Nui’s rich native plants and their role in Hawaiian cultural expression. Joylynn Paman, Executive Director of MNBG, has been bringing her son, Kamah‘o, to Tūtū and Me for almost three years. When approached with the opportunity to introduce her MNBG ‘ohana to our Tūtū and Me ‘ohana, she was delighted. She would be able to intertwine her passion for the Hawaiian culture, its traditions, practices and language and her love for the environment with the next generation of keiki.
We started the day with our families chanting the Oli Kāhea, to which Aunty Joylynn chanted the Oli Komo to us. Thus began our beautiful tour of the gardens, starting with the hau trees. She encouraged the keiki to find hala seeds that had fallen from the hala fruit, to use as paintbrushes for a painting activity. We proceeded to the kamani trees and observed its seeds and flowers that can be used to make lei. Next, we visited the pili grass and learned that it was used in ancient Hawaiian times as thatching to construct the roof of a hale. Finally, we were taken to the last stop of our tour; the first hale on Maui constructed from modernized materials by a University of Hawai‘i Maui College class, taught by Mr. Sineci (a hale builder from Hana). Being in this beautiful native Hawaiian garden, with our loved ones close, learning about our history and so much to be thankful for, we all gathered around the hale, hand in hand, and said a pule.
In carrying on with sharing mana‘o, we invited several guests to share their rare art forms with our keiki. First was Uncle Clayton, uncle of Tūtū and Me student Napua Ikeda, who is a coconut leaf weaver from Lahaina. He showed our keiki how to weave bowls, flowers, fish, birds, whales and grasshoppers. Next we had Uncle B.J., father of Tūtū and Me student Kawenamakamae Cabanting, who is a Haleakala Ranch Hand. He shared with us his love for working with rawhide. He showed us a kaula ‘Ili (rope skin) and a whip that he made out of cow hide. We were taught how to braid our own rope using deer hide.
Our very own staff shared their talents with us. Aunty Kehau enjoys making kapa in her free time. She encouraged the keiki to help her pound kapa from wauke using traditional kapa tools; i’e kuku, hohoa, and kua. Aunty Joylynn shared with our families what finished kapa looks like. Uncle Jason shared his passion for wood work and using safety goggles, a hammer and a hand chisel, each keiki could carve their name into a piece of wood. The hope of each of our guests is that they would spark an interest in our keiki to someday learn one of these art forms and continue to share it with future generations and keep these traditions alive.
Our huaka‘i to the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens was an eye opening experience about our history and culture. We are so grateful to have MNBG as a gathering place for discovery, education, and conservation to our community.