I was thrilled when I learned I would have the chance to photograph leis made by Brian Choy and Reynold Choy.  Brian and Reynold are brothers who make leis, arrange flowers, and landscape gardens–among other artistic pursuits.  Since the mid-1970’s, their leis have consistently won or placed at the May Day Lei Contest sponsored by the City & County of Honolulu.

I told Brian of my goal to photograph “authentic” lehua leis.  “Authentic” meaning leis made with plant material available to the Hawaiians before western contact (i.e. made with only native and polynesian-introduced plants).  I was stoked when he agreed to make them. 

Since native flowers and leaves are not usually plentiful, we agreed that he would make 8 inch lei segments to minimize what we harvested from the native forests.  The photographs would be close-ups to highlight the artistic arrangement of material and the fine level of craftsmanship.  It was with great anticipation that I hiked into the forest to gather some of the material for these leis. 

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Red and White Lei

This authentic red and white lei is made completely with native and Polynesian-introduced material: (1) red lehua flowers, (2) red-orange liko–young lehua leaves, (3) dark red ti leaves–bordering on purple, (4) white lichen, and (5) green palapalai ferns. 

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Lei Lehua Ula (Red Lehua Lei)

This amazingly red lehua lei could have been made in old Hawaii.  It is made with: (1) red lehua flowers, (2) red liko–young lehua leaves, (3) red aalii seed capsules, (4) dark red ti leaves–bordering on purple, and (5) green palaa ferns. 

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Lei Lehua O Pohakuloa (Lehua Lei of Pohakuloa)

Brian made an even more authentic lei by gathering all the material for the lei from a single location.  Since transportation was difficult in old Hawaii, it was far more likely that a lei would be made with material gathered from a single location rather than from several places around the island. 

This spectacular lehua lei is from Pohakuloa on the Big Island.  It is made completely with native plants: (1) red lehua flowers and buds, (2) liko–young lehua leaves, (3) yellow and orange ohelo berries, (4) black nene kukae berries, (5) white lichen, (6) light green pukiawe leaves, and (7) green palapalai ferns. 

Many thanks to Brian Choy for making these leis.