Jan 27, 2016
Nā Mea Preserves Hawai‘i's Culture And Creativity
Nā Mea Hawai‘i isn't your typical gift shop peddling novelty items and tokens from the Aloha State.
Tucked into their Ward Warehouse storefront, Nā Mea takes great pride in curating an eclectic collection of authentic merchandise that's truly reflective of the people and rich culture that call Hawai'i home. It's this distinction that has helped them garner a loyal and enthusiastic following in the 25 years they've been doing business in Honolulu.
A quick glance through their salesroom floor reveals an intriguing mix of locally made clothing, art, and jewelry. In one corner, you'll find a wide selection of Ni'ihau shells, as vibrant as a Hawaiian sunset. In another display case, a series of Hawaiian paddles and weapons are neatly organized. A peak around each corner reveals a surprise, like their wide selection of native books, ensuring that the knowledge of this special place, written by the people who call it home, is never lost.
In addition to literary elements and merchandise, there's also another element to Nā Mea that you won't find anywhere else: they pride themselves on being a hub for creativity. Their retail space doubles as a resource for the community to gather, exchange ideas, and learn from one of the world's great cultures as they regularly teach classes.
Through their workshop series, which you can find a schedule of online, Nā Mea opens up their doors for a variety of classes that range from restoring Ni'ihau shells, to feather-lei making, to lauhala weaving—just to name a few. According to Maile Meyer, the store's founder, this all-encompassing approach to Nā Mea arose organically.
"This pluralistic make-up was a natural occurrence," explains Meyer. "There's space for things that need structure, there's space for the dynamic of people learning, and we're evolving into what I call a native-knowledge center."
While Hollywood and tourism has often led to the Hawaiian culture being misrepresented, packaged, and passed off as authentic to the masses, it's refreshing to see a shop like Nā Mea flourish. "I really think our commitment to focusing on local artists who represent a more authentic and honest Hawaii is what makes us so special," says shop employee Pua Tialino-Basques. "We really try and serve the community by being a place where people can learn. Nā Mea is so much more than just a store to us."
1200 Ala Moana Blvd
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