Prepping for ʻOnipaʻa

16 01 2022

January 17, 2022, marks 129 years since the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Following a scheduled Peace March in Honolulu that will end at Queen Liliʻuokalani’s statue, there will be a program of music and speeches throughout the afternoon on the grounds of Iolani Palace.

For Ka Lāhui Hawai’i Kōmike Kalai’āina Chair, Leiānuenue Niheu, “ʻOnipaʻa” is a unified call to the people of the sovereign Hawaiian nation to come together as one force, one will, and one people to resist the settler colonial establishment that governs our islands.”

The Onipa’a Peach March and Gathering annual event helps ensure that the great wrong that was done to Queen Lili’uokalani and the native people of Hawai’i by a small group of American businessmen on January 17, 1893 with the support of US Marines will never be forgotten, she said. 

My good friends, the ones you can always count on for help, came to my  studio today to make very large lei garlands to decorate Keliiponi Hale, the palace pavilion, for the big day. There, kamaʻāina and visitors alike may view a special memorial to native Hawaiian scholar, teacher, and activist Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask who passed over on July 3, 2021.
My friends Joe, Girly, Tom, Nancy, Gwen, and I gathered on the back deck to fashion seven lei, each 10 feet long. We had picked the plant material early in the morning—mostly sturdy green ti leaves.
Joe went to the pavilion yesterday and photographed it so we could have a better idea of the venue to be decorated.
Clockwise from upper left: Joe, Girly, Gwen, Rebekah, Tom, and Nancy beside the lei garland





Nancy and Tom

I am so very thankful for my friends. As Joe says, an activity like this is better and more fun with a group.

~ Rebekah 


Stringing a lei of kou

21 09 2020

The kou tree in the front garden is blooming and dropping delicate orange-colored blossoms. When strung into a flower lei they look like ilima.

The Hawaiian-English dictionary has this description:

“ 1. n. A tree found on shores from East Africa to Polynesia (Cordia subcordata), with large, ovate leaves, and orange, tubular flowers 2.5 to 5 cm in diameter, borne in short-stemmed clusters. The beautiful wood, soft but lasting, was valuable to the early Hawaiians and was used for cups, dishes, and calabashes. (Neal 714–5.) (PPN tou.)”

I keep the lei cool in the open air between wet newspaper, avoiding the refrigerator, and re-dampen the newspaper as needed.


After wearing, you may save the lei. As it dries to a rusty orange, snug up the flowers together along the craft ribbon to wear again!

Aloha nō,


The lei on display at Kapiolani Park

1 05 2018

HONOLULU—Every May 1st floral designers make lei for the Hawaiian Lei Contest sponsored by the City at Kapiolani Park. A horticulturist identifies the plant elements in the lei upon entry, and then organizers line up the creations near the parking lot between the park Bandstand and the Waikiki Shell.

The display opens to the public to view with the untying of a ti leaf lei around 12:30 p.m. after the Royal May Day Court sees it first.

Today I was first in line along with Evelyn who I just met. We are both lei makers, too. Although we did not enter anything, we came for ideas! Check out my images. You can practically smell the flowers, can’t you? The lei in the last photo in the series took the Mayor’s Grand Prize.







Mayor’s Grand Prize is awarded to Melvin T. Labra for his wili style lei of ‘ohai ali‘i, palapalai, and kukunaokala.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii!


In my world and why we create

14 08 2016

In my world, much of what I do is creative. Creating interesting and beautiful things brings me satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, joy. I don’t initially do it for money although, come to think of it, most of my income has come from making fine art and from designing and writing publications and lesson plans. I’ve yet to turn a buck composing or singing or cooking!

Last night a volunteer appreciation party at Kaneohe Yacht Club for Pacific Cup race workers reminded me of other benefits of creating and of involving others in the process. Those benefits are respite and therapy.  I led a crew of 25 in making lei garlands for the arriving boats from San Francisco.

When I arrived late to the party (bad highway traffic), I learned it was announced the free drinks were courtesy of the monetary donation I made from partial proceeds of the lei that happens to be a product we sell. Well, that is not exactly the kind of therapy I was thinking of ;-), but we did make money, and it gave me satisfaction to spend a morning writing checks to the lei makers and two organizations that collaborated for the activity. We made lei!

Carol Silva
During Pacific Cup time I’ve noticed, or sometimes the lei makers tell me, some come to make a lei or two or three in order to take a break from a difficult situation at home.

A family member was in the hospital, or a spouse was ill, or they got childcare so they were free to come. They made the time or they took the time to come and do something they loved to do and be among other people. That they would tell me this touched my heart, and I am so very glad and grateful I could provide the creative outlet.

Creating interesting and beautiful things also brings freedom and peace. Namaste. ~ Rebekah

Giant lei garlands for yachts say ‘Aloha!’

20 07 2014

Good morning, studio fans! Until today we’ve been hanging out at Kaneohe Yacht Club where I and my team have been crafting lei for some of the arriving boats in the Pacific Cup Yacht Race from San Francisco.

I say “until today” because the thunder-lightning-rain storm that is ripping the Islands has closed roads, etc., and we are taking a rest this morning, enjoying the waterfalls, retrieving wet pets from outdoors, and surveying the flooding and mudslides. We can hardly imagine what it must have been for the small-boat racers at sea last night. What a light show!


Here’s Jennifer, Kaneohe Yacht Club member, thrilled with her first boat lei. She and Nancy, pictured below, discovered they went to the same high school in Minnesota. Now they meet on Oahu!

We are making 40 lei, wili style, each 12-feet long and uniquely beautiful. All the plant materials are gathered and donated voluntarily. Our lei makers range from first-timers to professionals. Our team is composed of folks from Kaneohe Yacht Club, Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club that receives scholarship funds from the lei sales, and my friends. It is a fun, social activity that we do every even-numbered year.

Michele Kamakea Kalili of Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club is from a family of professional lei makers that go way back. Her father Gus Kalili made and sold lei out of his woodie along Lagoon Drive on the way to the old Honolulu International Airport back when.

Kamakea of Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club is from a family of professional lei makers who go way back. Her father Gus Kalili made and sold lei out of his woody along Lagoon Drive on the way to the old Honolulu International Airport back when.


Kathleen Sattler, my glee club sister, welcomes the break from her otherwise stressful schedule this week.

Thanks to all the volunteers on all of the Pacific Cup committees.

Carol Silva

Carol, experienced in making lei for hats, crafts her first giant one for a boat.

Nancy and Pat

Friends Nancy and Pat enjoy helping with lei construction.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

1 05 2011

Today, let’s make a lei, wear a lei, give a lei! May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii! This lei is strung kui style with yellow plumeria and orange kou blossoms from the garden. Aloha to you.

"Mommy tricked me. I came when she called "Walkies!" but she just wanted to give me a lei and have me pose. She even gave me a big smooch on my nose." ~ Alice Brown

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke

If you are new to Rebekah’s Studio, here’s my 2010 Lei Day entry. This year’s celebration at Kapiolani Park Bandstand—the 84th annual— runs until 5:30 p.m. today.

Gathering kukui nuts and re-landscaping for a play space

18 09 2010

Aged kukui nuts prior to cleaning and polishing into Hawaiian jewelry

The studio and its surrounding garden of fruit trees and raised vegetable beds is not my choice for a toddler to play in, so I’ve cleared out the heliconia under the avocado tree to plant a soft thick green ground cover of clover with Miss Marvelous in mind. She likes to explore and play in the outdoors.

Those following the progress of Miss Marvelous may see what she looks like at 16 months this September. I snapped this image in the car on a shopping trip. She loves shopping!

The heliconia patch was there since purchasing our place. It has survived with not much care for more than 26 years. When the patch was full and thriving, gathering the fallen avocados in August was like hunting for Easter eggs in a forest.

Off and on since trimming the plants to the ground I’ve dug up roots, runners, sprouts, as well as rusty iron pieces from the old VW bug, now in its last disintegration phase.

Just by running my fingers through the coarse soil, I found lots of old, old kukui nuts, whole ones and halves of different colors—black, brown, white, multi—from the neighbor-in-the-back’s tree on the other side of the panax hedge. They were easy to find, a meditative search akin to shell seeking.  In all our years here I never gathered many.

Today I thought I’d rescue the nuts for my friend Kamakea who turns them into jewelry, and I saved them for her.

The kukui fruit with its outer skin covering or husk still intact. On the tree they are a gray-green color.

Next I looked for kukui nuts that were freshly fallen for another friend, Cathy, who makes inamona, a roasted nutmeat relish mashed with paakai (salt) and used in Hawaiian cuisine.

It is a long process to prepare inamona, about as long as it takes to make kukui nut jewelry. Cathy said, as long as the outer covering is still intact, it’s good for inamona. Kukui nuts are seasonal, and they are starting to fall now.

Sure enough, in and among the fallen dried leaves in the corner of the lot were these round fruit. So I scooped those up too. When I have a few more, I’ll deliver them to Cathy.

The kukui tree (Aleurites moluccana) is amazing. It has many uses. It is a canoe plant originally brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesians who arrived here by canoe. You can spot the tree in the mountains by looking for light, mint-green-colored leaves.

In Hawaiian culture the kukui is one of the kinolau (forms taken by a supernatural) of the Hawaiian pig god Kamapuaa; the shape of the leaf resembles the head and ears of a puaa (pig). Freshly plucked leaves with stems on are arranged together by knotting the stems make beautiful lei (wreaths). In laau lapaau (Hawaiian medicine), the mashed kernel, as in inamona, is a laxative and prescribed for relieving constipation.

It is often called the candlenut tree. Kukui means light. Hawaiians skewered the oily kernels and burned them for light. The oil is the preferred oil for polishing wooden utensils for food, such as umeke (bowls) and platters. You can now find the oil on the commercial market as a cooking oil and in cosmetics.

The kukui tree also provides wonderful shade. Mahalo e ke Akua! Combined with the canopy of the avocado tree and a ground carpet of hardy clover, I envision a delightful play space for Miss Marvelous. She’ll just have to duck during the month when the fruit fall.

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

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