Uncle George Place and Kammie Tavares. (Credit: SOEST Maile Mentoring)

To celebrate the achievements of graduates of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) Maile Mentoring Bridge, students and mentors designed and created kīhei worn during the spring 2018 graduation ceremony.

Stamps used to make kihei. (Credit: SOEST Maile Mentoring)

Rosie Alegado, assistant professor in SOEST‘s Department of Oceanography and UH Sea Grant program, invited two traditional ʻohe kāpala practitioners from Hōnaunau on Hawaiʻi Island, Uncle George Place and UH Sea Grant’s Chantal Chung, to lead the first SOEST Hana Noʻeau Workshop in May.

During traditional graduation ceremonies for the ancient arts, students who have acquired sufficient skill and knowledge to advance to the next level of training are presented with kīhei by their teachers. Kīhei are traditional Hawaiian garments worn during ceremony and protocol, often adorned with symbols representing the expertise of the wearer.

“The SOEST Maile Mentoring Bridge program seeks to create nurturing spaces for kamaʻāina (local) students pursuing geoscience degrees at UH Mānoa,” said Alegado. “A critical component in our students’ educational journey is contextualizing their science in the framework of our host culture.”

Representing the journey

3 graduating student at commencement wearing their kihei

SOEST graduates with kihei. (Credit: SOEST Maile Mentoring)

The Maile students learned how to design and carve symbols representing their science and academic journey on traditional bamboo stamps or ʻohe kāpala. They were then stamped on kīhei made of undyed muslin, reminiscent of kapa or paper mulberry cloth. Students were also instructed on the significance of caring for and wearing kīhei.

two people wearing commencement cloths and kihei

SOEST Dean Brian Taylor and Assistant Professor Rosie Alegado in their kihei.

“This was my first experience making kīhei, and I was humbled to be a part of Uncle George and Chantal’s workshop,” said Kammie Tavares, graduate of the Global Environmental Science’s bachelor’s degree program. “It was very special that my own hands created the tool of my kīhei pattern, and I was proud to wear my kīhei on graduation day.”

Additionally, Place designed and made a stamp that incorporated elements of ocean, earth and atmosphere to represent SOEST that was then used to create kīhei for SOEST Dean Brian Taylor and Associate Dean Chip Fletcher.

Said Taylor, “This is a very special gift that I will wear with pride knowing the skill, care and tradition with which it was made.”

The workshop was made possible by grants from the UH Mānoa Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity Program and the National Science Foundation, and support from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Office of STEM Education and the SOEST Dean’s Office.

See the SOEST website for the full story.