The University of Hawaiʻi contingent is having a far-reaching effect at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Visitors from Europe, South Africa and around the globe are experiencing Hawaiian crafts—from feather lei making to lauhala weaving. They’re learning about woodcarving and makahiki games.

The 1.5 million people coming through the 10-day festival are also pounding taro and making poi. They’re learning about Hawaiian health and healing through lomi lomi or Hawaiian massage.

Members of hula hālau Unukupukupu are holding hula workshops to share their knowledge of the traditional dance.

Hawaiʻi Community College Professor Trina Nahm-Mijo said she is the oldest hālau member performing at the festival, and this experience was on her bucket list.

“I’m having the time of my life performing for hundreds of people and teaching people from around the world about our traditional dances and the Hawaiian culture,” Nahm-Mijo said.

Hālau members are also busy teaching visitors how to make a Hawaiian musical instrument called ʻūkēkē out of balsam wood and fishing wire.

Teenagers were especially interested in making an instrument of their own.

“It makes a very soft sound. And in Hawaiʻi, if somebody comes really close to you to hear that soft sound, it’s really kind of intimate. So that’s why they consider it a love call,” said ʻūkēkē workshop instructor Alohilani Adachi-Jose, of Hawaiʻi Community College in Hilo.

Washington, D.C. resident Stephon Vandergrift, 15, said it was fairly simple to make the instrument and play it.

“It’s not hard, It’s just movement of the hands. They say it helps you get women Hawaiʻi,” said Vandergrift.

Vandergrift was overwhelmed by the attention from his ʻūkēkē instructors and joined them in an impromptu song that attracted a crowd. But the shy 15-year-old took in all the attention… and the Hawaiian culture.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The University of Hawaiʻi will be among 20 public land-grant universities to be featured in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. from June 27 to July 8, 2012.

The festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, which paved the way for higher education for rural and working class Americans.

The University of Hawaiʻi exhibits will feature traditional Hawaiian health and healing practices, a mini taro patch, non-instrument navigation, medicinal herb and organic farming and much more. Hawaiʻi Community College’s halau Unukupukupu and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Tuahine Troup will also perform.

See more on the University of Hawaiʻi’s Smithsonian experience.

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