Growing Lata’s Garden

Highlights from Meph and Mimi’s Presentation at Kaua’i Community College 13 October, 2015

About 40 people attended Mimi and Meph’s talk titled “Growing Lata’s Garden.” This presentation was the second in a series called “Balance of Nature” co-sponsored by Kaua’i Community College and the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG).

The invitation to speak had come serendipitously when Margaret Clark of NTBG and Meph were participating in the annual NOAA Sanctuary Count of humpback whales. During a lull in whale activity, Margaret had asked Meph if she knew of anyone willing to give a talk for the upcoming series. She certainly did!

Only after Mimi and Meph had organized their program did they learn the series’ title. When they did hear it they were delighted by the coincidence, since Lata’s character and attributes embody concepts of balance, between male and female, land and sea, humans and their environment, etc.

Meph opened with a description of Lata, including the many ways a Taumako voyaging canoe, a Vaka o Lata, incorporates the equilibrium between land and ocean, male and female, past and future. Mimi followed with specific examples of how Nga Taumako build canoes using traditional and sustainably harvested plant materials, and how modern sea transport can use ancient ideas to reduce use of fossil fuels and other environmentally damaging technologies.

pandanus

The type of pandanas that Taumako weavers use to make the sail panels.

An array of artifacts, a model canoe, coils of sennit and hau cordage, a steering paddle, and a lauhala sail illustrated their skillful use of these materials. Especially interesting to the audience was the sail, which was so large that it required an aggregation of tables for its display. Weavers who saw it were especially impressed by the technical expertise it represented.

After the talk, Mimi and Meph enjoyed informal conversation with many old friends and some new ones. Two days before, they had attended the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology’s annual meeting, and were especially pleased that several new acquaintances from that gathering came to the talk. Almost everyone had questions about the presentation and the exhibits, and people lingered long after the formal portion ended.

In the days and weeks since that evening, both Mimi and Meph have heard favorable comments from those who attended. Many thanks to all who made this enjoyable event possible: Margaret and Cammie, other staff members from NTBG and KCC, and everyone who took the time to attend.

The “Balance of Nature” series will continue into 2016. For information about future talks, which usually take place on the second or third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 PM in the KCC cafeteria, please contact Margaret at NTBG (33207324) or consult the NTBG website.

Miki steering

Ambrose Miki steering a Te Alo Lili with Nifiloli Island in the background in 2013. The crew members on the leeward platform and at the mail hull balance against the weight of the windward outrigger