Thursday, March 17, 2011

Uhau humu pōhaku: Hawaiian dry stack masonry


Pōhaku, or stones, comfort me. They intrigue me. Some people are intrigued by the ocean, or rivers, the forest. I love stones. They hold memories. They know secrets. They have gravity. It's not surprising, then, that when our department visited Keanakamanō, the native plant garden near the front gate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama,  I was more intrigued by the dry stack wall that holds the iwi, bones, found on site when the garden was being built. 

This particular wall is built under the guidance of  Billie Fields, a native Hawaiian practitioner of uhau humu pōhaku. This method is an ancient technique of making stone structures without use of concrete. The rock builder looks at the rocks and places them in such a way that the wall uses gravity and the shape of the rocks to hold it together. Kumu Fields guarantees his walls for 300 years. Guaranz.
That's what you call native intelligence.

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