Sharing The Culture Of Hawaii

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - February 04, 2009
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Ke Kai Kealoha (left), part owner and manager of Mea Makamae, displays a lei humupapa peacock with blue and green accents from Gladys Brede, and salesperson Patea While has a Paulette Kahalepuna lei hulu poepoe goose feather with royal colors

Pahu drums, carved fish hooks, books and Niihau shell lei are a few of the handiworks featured at Mea Makamae, a retail store located in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Partners in the endeavor are Maile Meyer, a collaborator of the Ward Warehouse-based retail store Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii; Peter Apo, a veteran cultural consultant who provides the native perspective to the visitor industry; Rob Iopa, an architect whose company WCIT Architecture designed the store and the remodel of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and Ke Kai Kealoha, a project manager.

They created Mea Makamae as a place where people could learn more about Hawaii’s cultural traditions.

“We really are a portal to a Hawaiian experience,” emphasizes Kealoha, operations manager. “It’s like the layers of an onion. We are one attempt at trying to uncover the layers to sharing who and what we are.”

In addition to showcasing handcrafted products made by artisans who carry on the practices of their ancestors, the 259-square-foot store is on a mission to help give people a deeper understanding and a unique feel of Hawaii.


Their plan is threefold: First is to focus on a theme every six weeks. For the royalty theme, the boutique sells symbols of royalty such as the feather kahili and feather lei made by Paulette Kahalepuna, Gladys Brede, Joe Recca and Kuahiwi Lorenzo. To commemorate the theme every few months, they’ll hold a one-day workshop. Second, at 10 a.m. each Monday they will offer a one-hour class on topics such as lei-making, hula and weaving. Third, small groups can take a tour guided by a cultural expert, who will transport them to that time period with stops at Kawaiahao Church, the window from which Queen Lydia Liliuokalani gazed out, the royal mausoleum Maunaala and Queen Emma’s summer palace.

With the help of staff, Mea Makamae also can request special orders from the artisans.

Kealoha says one of the challenges is coordinating the business.

“On the retail side, it is finding a system that works, that makes you accountable, that feels right so that you don’t lose that warm and fuzzy feeling.”

For more information, call 921-7248 or log on to

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