Wood carving class has many benefits

Jordan Souza shows a WCC student the finer art of wood carving – Bonnie Beatson
Jordan Souza shows a WCC student the finer art of wood carving – Bonnie Beatson

HWST 135: Kālai Lā‘au: Hawaiian Woodwork and Wood Carving is an innovative three-credit course taught by locally born and raised Jordan Souza, an experienced carver, tattoo artist and UH Mānoa graduate.

Beginners who take the course for the first time are warned of the hard work that comes with carving wood or stone. Arms may ache with pain from the first week of class. Advanced students are keen on the amount of work one must do to finish a project, pacing themselves one chisel stroke at a time.

Souza teaches students how to carve in the traditional Hawaiian method and with modern tools.

Students learn to carve kalo pounding boards, wooden bowls, holua sled (a land sled to ride down a grass mountain), carved images, ‘ulu maika stones, kapa beaters, temple drum and war implements.

The class also incorporates Hawaiian language and culture and meets one of the requirements to graduate with in AA in Hawaiian studies.

During the first month of class, students learn Hawaiian words and are tested on them weekly. Knowing the language helps with recognizing different kinds of wood and trees that are grown in Hawai‘i and used in traditional carving.

Last month, WCC had its first makahiki celebration since 2007. The free event featured traditional Hawaiian games such as ‘ulu maika and kōnane, a Hawaiian checker board game.

The wood carving class participated in the games and donated much of their carved game implements.

Despite the unique curriculum, Souza said he has a few challenges with the course, among them the facilities in Hale ‘Iolani. He said the roof starts to leak when it rains, and the floor near the classroom gets soaked.

In addition, the course is often in danger of being cut.

“Each year, WCC keeps auditing my class because we don’t have that many students attending … ” he said.

He hopes the course will continue and encourages students to register for next semester.

Next fall the course will be offered Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in Hale ‘Iolani 117.


by Zachary Rupp-Smith, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter