Hamakua Artisans' Guild - Hamakua.

Mahalo to Sarah Anderson for providing the photos for this page. Click on them for a larger view!

Waipi'o Valley looking to Maui.The ancient Hawaiians flourished in this area on the Northern slopes of magnificent Mauna Kea. They lived mainly in the valleys because of the abundance of flowing water, supporting taro cultivation, and providing access to the ocean for fishing and gathering shell fish and limu (seaweed). The upper lands were covered in impenetrable rain forests filled with building materials, colorful bird life, and pigs brought during the migrations. It was a rich land supporting a People rich in CULTURE and ART.

Hamakua cabin.In the latter part of the Nineteenth Century the culture began to change radically. The lowland rain forests began to be cleared for the planting of sugar cane. Great processing mills were built and more and more forest was cleared to fuel the mills and provide more land for planting. This process continued until virtually all of the native rain forest was cleared and in sugar cultivation from the ocean cliffs to an elevation of about 2000’. Immigrant workers settled in new camps built near the mills, providing workers for the fields, processing mills, the building of irrigation systems, bridges, roads and all aspects of an entirely new colonial culture.

Woven colorful hats.Although devastating to the native Flora and Fauna as well as the Art and Culture of the Hawai‘ians, this new mix of natives from China, Japan, the Portuguese Islands of Madiera and the Azores, the Philippines, the Scottish Islands and American nationals, wove upon the fabric of the welcoming Hawaiians a new Hybrid Culture, unique in all the world. This Culture was born and flourished for a hundred years in Hamakua.

Hamakua is lush and tropical.It was found that the most productive sugar lands were those below 1500’ elevation. Coffee was a popular crop on land above that elevation. The coffee was of such high quality that it was later planted in the Kona district to replace cattle that was more difficult to manage on the steeper rocky slopes of Hualalai. Eventually, cattle ranching occupied much of the mauka lands of the Hamakua coast replacing the early coffee farms planted in deep, rich, grass growing soil.

Over the years of change, from World Wars to labor disputes and shifts in economic focus the lands of the Hamakua now grow planted Eucalyptus forests where sugar once grew. Ranching and other agriculture occupy other fields. Taro is again flourishing in Waipi‘o Valley and coffee is making a comeback on upland slopes. More people are coming to live here to enjoy the peaceful rural lifestyle. And as with many other places of great beauty, Artisans of all kinds have settled in to explore and express the creativity energizing this most wonderful place.

Much water has passed under the bridges seeing good times and deep trouble but the resiliency and creativity of our people lives on. The Artisans of our Guild are some of the beneficiaries of the richness of this land, the diversity of the cultures and the nurturing of the spirit of peace emanating from the gentle northern slopes of the great “White Mountain”, Mauna Kea.

Welcome to Honoka'a on the Hamakua caost of the Big Island.


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Hamakua Artisans' Guild on the Big Island of Hawaii
P.O. Box 2025     Honokaa, Hawaii 96727

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