Museum staff were saddened to learn of the passing of master weaver Gladys Kukana Grace on Jan. 17. Curator of Textiles Sara Oka has an especially heavy heart. She worked with Aunty Gladys, as she was known, as well as her students to organize the 2011 exhibition Ulana Me Ka Lokomaika’i: To weave from the goodness within. “It was truly an honor to feature such a wonderful weaver here at the museum and to be able to help preserve her legacy,” says Oka.
Aunty Gladys, who grew up on Hawai‘i Island, received a National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship for her lauhala artistry. A tireless kumu, she leaves a legacy through the weaving club Ulana me ka lokomaika’i, which she started in 1997 with Frank Masagatani. She saw lauhala as much more than an art and tradition. “It is a connection with the past,” she said. “It changes your life. It will make you a better person.” And her dedicated students all have stories that underscore that philosophy.
Pictured above is Aunty Gladys at the opening of the exhibition Ulana Me Ka Lokomaika‘i, with museum textiles curator Sara Oka on the left, and student Happy Tamanaha. Below are more images from that memorable celebration of Aunty Gladys.
Photography by Shuzo Uemoto.