Gordon ‘Umialiloalahanauokalakaua Kai (“Umi” to his friends) crafted his first Hawaiian weapon over forty-five years ago. Made from the wood of a mango tree and ringed with shark teeth, his first leiomano or “lei of the shark,” is still with him. So too are all his other first attempts. “They remind me of my mistakes, so I won’t make them again,” says Umi. Umi’s not the only artist in the family – Janice Leinaala Noweo Kai, his wife of 42 years, is a skilled weaver. With over forty-five years of experience learning about and crafting na mea Hawai‘i, including na mea kaua (things of war), Umi and Janice are part of a small group of Native Hawaiian artists trying to perpetuate the craft of making tools and weapons that were once essential to survival.

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