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New virtual exhibit honors Lānaʻi’s plantation history

Lanai tennis.jpg
Aurelio Del Rosario Collection, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center
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HPR
Outside of work, many plantation workers and their families participated in clubs, sports and other community activities, including the Lānaʻi tennis club.

The Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center recently debuted a new virtual exhibit. It honors the plantation life that started when James Dole bought the island 100 years ago.

The pineapple plantation brought immigrants from the Philippines, Japan, Korea, China, Puerto Rico and other places across the globe. Outside of work, they participated in clubs, sports and other community activities.

The exhibit features photos and audio clips of first-hand accounts of people who worked and lived on the plantation up until it closed in 1992.

Lanai hula.jpg
Aurelio Del Rosario Collection, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center
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HPR
Hula was another popular activity. It was typically held at the "Old Gym" or "County Gym."

“Part of what’s so important is… knowing who we are and where we come from. And I think the pineapple plantation days are a big part of that,” said Shelly Preza, the center’s executive director. “What we wanted to try to showcase with this exhibit… is to honor the values that plantation people carried through their lives. So while they encountered a lot of struggles and challenges…they were incredibly resilient. They were innovative. They had a deep sense of responsibility to each other and to the community.”

Preza’s grandparents and parents worked on the plantation. While she grew up hearing stories about plantation life from her family, she was born after it closed.

She said she hopes the exhibit helps younger generations learn more about the pineapple plantation and its importance to the island’s history.

“I think what’s really important too is that it’s relevant not just to Lānaʻi people but to Hawaiʻi people everywhere,” Preza said. “Because a lot of people actually have connections to plantations, especially if they’re descended from immigrants who came to work on those different plantations. So there’s a lot of overlap in terms of experiences. And even if they’re not connected directly to the plantation, this is part of Hawaiʻi’s story.”

The center is also planning more events to honor the island’s history and the plantation days. For more information and to view the exhibit, click here.

Jayna Omaye is the culture and arts reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at jomaye@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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