Kumu Francis Palani Sinenci from Hana, Maui is a master builder who passes on the art of hale building and stone-work to a new generation of apprentices. They in turn have become alaka`i –leaders— of the practices themselves. Under his tutelage students have gone out and worked with communities on various hale and heiau restoration projects across Hawai`i. Some of these community projects have been part of larger community based natural resource management initiatives across the state through grassroots networks like E Alu Pū and the Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa
Community work projects demonstrate their skills and allow those he has trained to display their embrace of Hawaiian Culture and their reverence for the skills and knowledge they have acquired from their kupuna. By doing so they become leaders and practitioners themselves. They learn how to build a sense of laulima – cooperation for tasks that take more than one person alone.
Why build hale?
Kumu Sinenci’s students are drawn to hale-building by both history and tradition. “After decades of service in the Navy and Air Force, I decided I was going home to build hale,” said Kumu Sinenci at a recent demonstration held at Chaminade University.
The sense of purpose in reclaiming a cultural identity that was once under threat of being erased is echoed by many who have been mentored by Sinenci. They speak of building hale and restoring fishponds and heiau as ways of re-invigorating Native Hawaiian and local community ties to ʻāina (that which feeds).
Kara Nalani Tukuafu, an alaka`i herself, explained the attraction of hale-building as “a reclamation of our past, our space. It makes us work together. This is not something we can do alone. We have to do it as a community.”
Kumu Francis Sineci is on PBS Hawaiʻi’s Long Story Short this month with Leslie Wilcox to share his story and talk about the strength of a community when people work together to make sure ancestral practices are preserved and passed on.
Tune in on Tuesday May 21 at 7:30pm to better understand what makes a great teacher and what happens when a cultural legacy is preserved, with love and respect for the wisdom of those who came before.
For more information on the show please go to: https://www.pbshawaii.org/long-story-short-with-leslie-wilcox-francis-palani-sinenci/