Powered by Poi
Kalo, a legendary plant, has deep roots in Hawaiian culture.
Harvesting moana ‘ula‘ula.
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Photography by Jason Moore | Courtesy of Sky Barnhart
“Ready for ku‘i [ready to pound]?” Adelaide Kaiwi Kuamu Sylva asks expectantly. A slender Hawaiian woman in a blue dress, she wears her 92 years gracefully, a silk flower pinned in her silvery hair, her clear brown eyes taking in the family assembled around the picnic table in her Lahaina carport.
“Yes, Mama,” says her daughter June. She helps Adelaide to stand at one end of the table, facing a wooden board on which are piled chunks of soft, boiled kalo (taro). With both hands, Adelaide grasps the pohaku ku‘i ‘ai, the heavy stone pounder, lifts it high, and brings it down onto the sturdy papa ku‘i ‘ai, the poi board that was once her grandfather’s. “Ku‘i i ka poi, this is the way we pound the poi!” she sings gaily, as kalo flecks fly.
Rhythmically, Adelaide scoops water out of a bowl and slaps it onto the base of the poi pounder, briskly scraping the mashed kalo from the board’s raised sides with one sure hand. As she continues to pound, the purple paste gets smoother and shinier.
“It smells good, the poi,” says her elder daughter, Mary Bud. Everyone leans in for a fresh, earthy whiff.