Na Lei Makamae; The Treasured Lei
by Marie A. McDonald; Paul Weissich
Photographs by Jean Coté; Roen McDonald; Kenneth R. Wood
University of Hawai`i Press

Review by Juliana Ki’apuowaimakanalani Wolfe

As a lei maker and student of “Hula Kahiko” (ancient hula), I found this book to be a “must have” in my collection. This is not a “lei making book.” It is, however, a culmination of pictures and stories that focus on the depth of the pure beauty and living essence of the lei. Using dramatic landscapes, people dressed in ancient-style clothing and poetry in native tongue, “Na Lei Makamae” invites you to take a glimpse into the rich Hawaiian culture deeply rooted in the belief that everything is a living essence.

The authors encourage the reader to enjoy the lei not only as an adornment but also as a tribute to the natural elements that surround us all. Life for the ancient Hawaiians was centered on the respect for nature and breath of life known as “Ha.” This connection with natural elements and the importance of “Ha” is captured by using photographs of people adorned with the lei in a day-to-day setting, painting a superb picture of ancient times. The inclusion of stories, poetry and chants of “Hula Kahiko” further express this connection.

This book was not designed to give you technical nor scientific information. It does however include the botanical name, description of its physical attributes along with places where each plant can be found.

Each lei was composed from plants both native and endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Since some of the plants are getting harder to find or are close to being endangered, I felt that the authors showed great responsibility in urging lei makers to cultivate their own plants. They provided an appendix with basic information on how to propagate many of these plants.

For those readers who had any inclination or desire to make a lei, the authors decided to include an appendix of lei plant names and synonyms. This appendix includes the Hawaiian and botanical names and parts used in making each lei.

Hopefully, after reading “Na Lei Makamae,” one will not only look at the lei as an adornment but also as an expression of life.
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