Conservation and creativity unify for fundraising

Twenty years ago Koke‘e Natural History Museum’s board of directors conspired to eradicate banana poka — a resilient and spreading vine that threatened to crowd out native Hawaiian plants and trees of the upland forest in Koke‘e. Tomorrow, the third of four summer basket-making classes will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow fronting Koke‘e Museum. With poka, the star-shaped frame of the basket is made from bigger poka, and the smaller vines build the sides of the basket by being woven through the skeletal structure. In tomorrow’s workshop another invasive plant will be transformed into art, the bark of a black wattle tree.

“Someone came up with the idea to make baskets,” said former Hui O Laka board member and basket-making teacher Linda Oshiro. “Where banana poka can be woven in a typical basket technique, the wattle bark is more like a lahala weaving.”

Now in its second decade, the event has become a creative fundraiser for Hui O Laka, the nonprofit organization that runs the museum. This creative approach to conservation brings residents together for a day of connection and education.

“It’s real social. You get to sit around and talk and make baskets,” Oshiro said. “Money raised goes to restoring the CCC camp.”

The Civilian Conservation Core buildings were built during World War II and provide dorms for visiting students and scientists, as well as a mess hall and office for Hui O Laka.

Oshiro said it’s easy to learn basket making and most of the time is spent reclining in the meadow and talking story.

“I just have to get people started and show them how to finish,” she said. “In between everyone is weaving.”

For tomorrow’s black wattle class, attendees will assist in the harvest.

“This way you go out and gather,” she said. “So you learn how and where.”

Wattle was first brought to the Hawaiian Islands from Australia to feed the cows, Oshiro said. Because cows eat koa leaf and wattle shares a similar leaf structure, it was assumed the cows would eat wattle.

“The two plants look similar with their tiny leaves,” said Oshiro. “But the cows knew the difference.”

Wattle spread dramatically after Hurricane Iniki.

“It’s mostly up the mountain after the 7-mile marker,” she said.

The four summer classes alternate between the use of black wattle bark and banana poka. Tomorrow’s workshop will include a walk in the forest collecting materials, a break for lunch, and then an afternoon of making baskets.

Wattle is a material Oshiro appreciates working with.

“It dries to a leather — you could bounce it off a wall when you’re done,” she said.

The consistent harvest of these invasive species now has Oshiro traveling further to find them.

“We’re running ourselves out of business,” she said.

To register for the class call 335-9975.

Want to weave?

What: Basket weaving class

When: Tomorrow

Where: Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow

Cost: $15 includes membership to Koke‘e Museum

• Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or pwoolway@kauaipubco.com

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