Fascinating look into plantation life

  • “Mana—The Place and Its People.”

Mana” is the name of a small town on the far westside of Kaua‘i, even further west than Kekaha.

Today, Mana exists only in the memories of those who either lived or visited there. No longer are there even any buildings left there, which once used to be home to shops, houses, schools, even a community hall. Instead, nature has retaken the land for itself. Thankfully, the history of Mana, even what it looked like, has not been lost forever. John Martin, former long-time Mana resident, has saved an amazing collection of photographs, drawings and maps of this small, plantation-camp community, and compiled it into a form that can be shared for all time: a book titled “Mana—The Place and Its People.”

Part autobiography and part historical chronicle, “Mana” is a fascinating and unique look into a microcosm of plantation life. While Martin’s own personal experiences growing up in this camp begin in the early 20th century, he provides in its pages a full exploration of Mana’s history, what the area was like before it became a town, and all of what led Mana to be the place it was for 133 years. We learn about everyday life for those who resided in Mana and the different groups of immigrants who made it their home, such as the Japanese and Filipino workers, where they sent their children to school, and even how they fared through the changes brought by the World War II.

Eventually, in 1989, Mana as a town would be no more, becoming instead just a name on old maps with nothing and no one amid its dry landscape. We thank Martin for his effort to record this invaluable part of Kaua‘i’s history.

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Ed Justus is the owner of Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe. Yuriko and Ed Justus are Kalaheo residents.

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