Over the past 18 years, cultural programming offered by Kamehameha Schools has provided a broad array of educational options for the community, the most recent of which have been offered through the Kaʻiwakīloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center at our Kapālama Campus. In 2017, a spin-off series called Lāhui Rising was launched to provide a safe and respectful learning space to hear diverse perspectives from celebrated speakers on sensitive topics ranging from governance, native rights and land issues to Hawaiian patriotism.
The turn to digital learning over the past year has provided an opportunity to reintroduce Lāhui Rising as Kaʻiwakīloumoku’s premier cultural events series, and to promote digital engagement through virtual experiences delivered via video and live streaming.
The newly refreshed Lāhui Rising will focus on individuals who are helping our lāhui to rise to a place of strength, vibrancy, and aloha. Guests share the many ways they are using their skills, insights, and influence to reshape our world – grounded in the ʻike (knowledge) of our ancestors for the benefit of future generations. Lāhui Rising celebrates the collective hana of people who love and uplift the Hawaiian community. Watch our first Lāhui Rising video featuring an interview with renown canoe carver Alika Bumatay, and learn more about him in the story below.
Alika Kamaokalani Bumatay was blessed with a canoe when he was born. A gift from his father, master carver Ray Kama Bumatay, the kuleana of kālai waʻa is engraved in Alika’s moʻokūʻauhau (familial lineage).
As keiki, Alika and his siblings learned to lash and paddle koa racing canoes. Uncle Ray taught Alika and his brother to carve, but the young boys weren’t particularly interested in kālai waʻa at the time.
“Sometimes as a kid, you don’t realize what you got,” Alika recalls. Despite the longstanding family tradition of carving canoes, Alika didn’t begin dedicating himself to the practice until adulthood, turning to carving after a challenging period in his life. His father saw him struggling and suggested they carve together, and eventually they traveled to Japan and Aotearoa to carve canoes. “It wasn’t until later in life that [kālai waʻa] started calling me. The canoe actually saved me,” Alika asserts. “It’s been more than 10 years – and from that day forward I haven’t stopped.”
In 2001, Alika and Uncle Ray attended the annual Festival of Canoes which was held in Lahaina, Maui. It was here that they met renowned Maori navigator and canoe carver Sir Hekenukumai Ngāiwi Busby, whom Alika affectionately calls Papa Hek. A strong bond between Uncle Ray and Papa Hek snapped into place after each master watched the other work; Uncle Ray would ring a cowbell at the end of the day and Papa Hek would look over and nod, and they would sit together and talk. This routine continued from one festival to the next, for four or five years. They would finish each other’s sentences” laughs Alika. Both beloved masters have now passed; Papa Hek in 2019 and Uncle Ray in 2020.
Alika is now teaching the knowledge of kālai waʻa given to him by his father, to his teenage sons and their friends, forming a group called Nā Kama o Kālai Waʻa. These teens learned the practice and process of kālai waʻa, made a collective decision about what type of canoe to carve, and took on the challenge of carving a canoe with their teacher, completing most of the work themselves.
“It’s like paddling canoe – everybody has their place. Some kids are better at different parts of the process, but we all need each other,” he said. Alika is also teaching kālai waʻa to wāhine, although this type of carving was historically done by kāne. “Sometimes you have to evolve to keep the practice going,” he said of this expansion of traditional gender roles. In 2008, he and Uncle Ray received a women’s initiative grant for 17 wāhine to carve a replica of Queen Kapiʻolani’s canoe. The group started with a raw log and carved throughout the Merrie Monarch Festival that year. Alika emphasizes that lessons learned through kālai waʻa are applicable to life away from canoes – the most important lesson being hōʻihi (respect).
For Alika and in the tradition of other master carvers, the canoe is more than a vessel, it is a family member that demands the same level of care and concern. It doesn’t make sense, he said, to carve new koa canoes when existing koa canoes lie in disrepair. Better to use the valuable resource of koa wood to fix waʻa. “Canoes are like children, no sense having plenty if you no can take care.”
With this in mind, Alika invites people to become involved, because to work on the canoe is to impart mana to it. “People can start carving for their community. We can start sailing down the coastlines. If you use your canoes to get fish, you have to take care of the fish, the sea, you have to take care of the trees and the land… everything is full circle.” Alika smiles. “Carving canoes provides a sense of purpose and identity for Hawaiians. I want to teach it as much as possible.”
Watch the Lāhui Rising video above featuring an interview with Alika Bumatay, and please stay tuned for more new Lāhui Rising content coming soon! For more information about this interview and the Lāhui Rising series, please contact KS Cultural Specialist Makaʻala Rawlins at 932-4403 or email@example.com.
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