Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai Cultural Garden at the UH Mānoa campus recently held a groundbreaking ceremony on August 20 for its new Cultural Resource Center on Dole Street next to the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.
Kānewai successfully secured a $670,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build a 2,325-foot, ADA-compliant, multi-purpose facility to include a large resource room and community learning area, an adjoining meeting room, learning laboratory, workshop, storage space and restrooms.
“We are excited and ready to go,” said Edward Makahiapo Cashman, Kānewai’s executive director. “We’ve managed to run undergraduate courses and hold classes and programs here without any kind of facility for decades. Last year, we had just under 30,000 people come through.”
Kānewai is a 3.5-acre oasis of gurgling streams, taro ponds, native plant gardens, handmade rock terraces, and a single traditional, open-sided, thatched A-frame structure. It is bordered by the Hawaiian Studies complex, towering student dorms, and the non-stop rush of cars on Dole Street.
“Kānewai is one of the last agricultural terraces in a network that once connected Mānoa to Waikīkī. Its last commercial use was for rice farming all the way into the 1970s,” says Cashman. Then, in the 1980s, several UH Mānoa students uncovered the area’s defunct water ditch system. Led by kupuna Harry Mitchell, they began to restore the kalo terraces and irrigation system.
Since then Kānewai has become a “seed bank” of over sixty varieties of native kalo, all non-GMO, and free of disease, viruses and vermin. It is thought to be the largest collection of native Hawaiian varieties in existence.
“We have students, farmers, families, community organizations, university departments, schools, and individuals come to learn and teach seven days a week,” explains Cashman about the wildly popular outdoor classroom. “Having a modest structure will allow us to host more students and volunteers and better leverage the curriculum and programs we’ve developed over the years.”
In addition to the federal HUD grant, Kānewai held fundraisers and won support from a small group of key donors including the Abigail K. Kawananakoa Foundation, the Gladys Kamakakūokalani ʻAinoa Brandt Endowed Chair, the Consuelo Foundation, Virginia Hinshaw, and the Judith D. Pyle Dean’s Chair. Design and engineering work was contributed at no cost by Rob Iopa of WCIT with the help of the UH Mānoa School of Architecture. Cashman says, “The center was actually designed using traditional Hawaiian measurements.” The plans conform to building code and the result, says Cashman, will be a place that “reflects the significance of kalo to the Hawaiian people.”
About Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai: Established in 1980, Kānewai is the most experienced teaching cultural garden in Oceania and guardian of most varieties of Native Hawaiian taro. Kānewai operates as an educational center with the full support and standing of the University of Hawai‘i and Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, the largest and only indigenous college in a Research I University. Kānewai is located at 2645 Dole Street in Honolulu. Open seven days a week, all are welcome and admission is free.