For almost 2 years now I have been collaborating with Brian Choy to recreate authentic native leis made exclusively with flowers, leaves, and ferns available to the Hawaiians prior to western contact. To celebrate the holiday season, I’d like to share some of the leis and wreaths that invoke the spirit and feel of Christmas.
Brian Choy is an extraordinary lei-maker, flower-arranger, landscaper, and all-around artist. Since the 1970’s his leis have consistently won or placed at the annual May Day Lei Contest sponsored by the City & County of Honolulu.
Part of the collaboration involves me hiking into the native forests to gather flowers, leaves, berries and other material for Brian to fashion into exquisite leis which I then photograph. Since many of the native plants are no longer plentiful, we agreed to make a short 12 inch lei segment to minimize the amount of material taken from the native forests.
Brian made this red lehua-iliahi lei entirely with native plant material available to the Hawaiians prior to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by the West. It is made in the wili style with: (1) red lehua flowers, (2) white iliahi flowers, (3) reddish-pink iliahi flower buds, (4) green iliahi leaves, and (5) green palapalai ferns.
To add another layer of authenticy, we collected the material for the next lei depicted below from a single geographic location. In old Hawaii it was not possible to drive to different locations to collect lei material. It was more likely that the material would be collected from the same place.
This spectacular lehua lei is made entirely from material from Pohakuloa on Hawaii Island. Named “Lei Lehua O Pohakuloa” or the “Lehua Lei of Pohakuloa”, this lei is made in the wili style with: (1) red lehua flowers and buds, (2) liko–young lehua leaves, (3) yellow and orange ohelo berries, (4) red aalii seed capsules, (5) black nene kukae berries, (6) white lichen, (7) light green pukiawe leaves, and (8) green palapalai ferns.
This wreath is made with material available to the Hawaiians before the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778. It is made with: (1) red lehua flowers, buds, and calyxes (2) red ti leaves, (3) green koa leaves, (4) green ohia leaves, (5) green ulei leaves, and (6) green ti leaves.
Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!
Many thanks to Brian Choy for making these strikingly beautiful leis and wreaths.