Keiki o ka Aina. Nature is where it all begins.
If I ever move out from Hawaii I will always remember this time of my life as the most genuine connection I’ve ever had with Mother Nature. For the last couple of months, I’ve been working with this unique group of heroes who are mana of mindfulness and giving back to the land of Hawaiian ancestors. I will remember this time by starting my workday with Aloha ‘Āina chants, having a very strong community spirit founded upon a sense of being connected to all living things. I will remember this time of being respected and having respect for what we all do together, as Waimea Valley family. I will remember this time as my personal contribution to Hawaiian Kauhale building, a deep dive into the old Hawaiian family stories, kamaaina legends, honest tears, and many waves of laughter.
Waimea Valley cultural team and kupuna have been diligently working on the restoration of several hale in Hawaiian living site - Kauhale. Those that have worked on restoration projects know it is no easy feat, especially when keeping traditional methods and practices in reconstructing these sites. This is our calling as stewards of this sacred ahupua’a to protect, preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and natural resources of Waimea for generations through education and stewardship. Waimea is a living pu’uhonua for and by kānaka for Hawai’i and the world. With all her natural wonders and beauty, it continues to be a place of history, culture, and spirituality.
I came to Waimea Valley for the first time in December 2019, and yes, I fell in love with the beauty of its nature, unique variety of living creatures, and native habitats of Hawaiian birds and plants, but what really struck me is their Waimea Valley Ohana (family), and how appreciative and loving they are towards their working place.
I worked with different departments, starting from botanical, continued in culture and pretty recently became a part of their conservation team. And I have to say - people that work there is Waimea Valley. It is not just a beautiful natural valley where you can see a lot of unique flowers and swim in the waterfalls. It is a home for people who dedicated 20 or 30 years of their life to it. It is a place where people write the history of Hawaiian culture with their bare hands.
I had an honour to join the cultural team of Waimea Valley to rebuild their spiritual center - native Hawaiian living cite that consists of traditional, cultural model of housing containing tiny homes and communal areas for restrooms, cooking, and gathering.
I had one in a lifetime opportunity to direct and produce 4 short movie series of each kupuna member, and their personal relation to this project. Not only I was helping rebuilding tiny Hawaiian houses with bare hands and methods once used by Hawaiian ancestors, but I was also learning a lot of spiritual practices and Hawaiian legends told by Kupuna members.
I believe that these unique stories should be told and shared among the Hawaiian community and our big Ohana here, in Hawaii. You can check out the movie series here.
I gained a lot of knowledge, new skills and unforgettable experience by building Kauhale and documenting the whole process with my cinematography perspective, but the most important lesson that will stay with me forever is that you should really believe in what you are doing and only do things you believe in.