Over, under, over, under, over, in. Last week at a friend’s birthday get-together, I learned how to create coconut hats.
Located on the edge of Waikīkī, Kaimana Beach—also known as Sans Souci Beach—is just south of the Natatorium War Memorial. The beach was bustling with families, kids of all ages and canine friends as well. In addition to the small, white sand beach there is also a large grassy area near the parking lot.
Sitting on the grass with the rest of the party guests, we all worked carefully weaving our leaves, trying to create our very own hats. As this was my first time learning this craft—along with other first-timers as well—I found myself anxious, yet excited. Being that I am not the best visual learner, I often called on for help from those around me.
After a while of rearranging my palm leaves just right, I noticed that I was starting to get the hang of what I was doing. Looking at my creation, searching for leaves that I may have messed up on, I began to see the pattern of the coconut tree leaves taking shape into an actual hat. As I was admiring what I had completed thus far, I couldn’t help but think about the ancient Polynesians that started this art form.
My mind wondered why they decided to create these hats—was it just a pastime, a way to protect their heads from the heat or maybe a combination of both? More importantly, I began to ponder how exactly they taught themselves to do this. It took me a good 30 minutes just to figure out how to create the brim portion of the hat, let alone the top part that would actually cover my head. I was in awe that they were able to create something so intricate out of materials that were so simple.
Although I am not Polynesian, I have lived in Hawaiʻi for my entire life. But it wasn’t until I wrote this piece, that I realized that I learned a craft that went back generations and generations. Cultural things, such as coconut hat making is what reminds me of how much history there really is to Hawaiʻi—and Polynesia in general.
I learned how to use something from the land and tried to create something with my own two hands. Even though I wasn’t able to create the perfect hat, it’s still an experience that makes me smile. It is the little things like this that make me grateful to live in a place with rich culture, scenic views and wonderful people. I truly feel so privileged to call Hawaiʻi my home.