Hawaiian language and had been born and reared on
Kaua`i. Leilehua learned from him about plants, philosophy, and the
health of the kino (body). Tutu Wahine Thelma was a homemaker and fine amateur artist, and taught
Leilehua lei making, hula, storytelling, and other arts.
Both of Leilehua's parents are professional
artists, and also trained her as she grew older. Leilehua studied
formally in Journalism and Fine Arts, and holds a Certificate in
Education for Ministry, earned in 1986, from the University of the South
School of Theology at Sewanee, Tennessee. She
continued her studies of Hawai`i-ana with respected island kupuna
(elders) such as
Nona Beamer, who mentored Leilehua for over a decade.
Leilehua also owns Yuen
Media Services, an editorial consultancy specializing in
providing written material and artwork on Hawai`i. YMS also provides a
variety of other services and has been described in local industry
publications as "a temp service for media and communications
She has been a professional writer since 1981,
but became best known in Hawai`i through Kau
Kau Kitchen, a cooking column specializing in local food.
Her wide-ranging work has been published in the U.S., Canada, and Japan.
Although she primarily writes magazine articles on Hawai`iana topics,
she has authored four cookbooks, several chapbooks on various topics,
and several chapbooks of poetry.
Her artwork has been shown at galleries around the Big Island of
Hawai`i, and has been bought by locals and visitors alike. Some of her
pieces have gone as far afield as Japan, China, New Zealand, Canada,
Germany, Australia, and Finland. In an offshoot of both her artwork and
hula, she and her daughter, Jessica "`Ehu" Yuen, started Pacific
Islands Shipping and Trading as a way for themselves and
their hula sisters to market their Hawaiian handcrafts and hula
Leilehua has been quoted in National
Geographic Magazine, she and her work have appeared in
O`ahu Quick Guide, and Hawaii Magazine, and she was featured in the
April/May 2003 issue
Invited to events
around the world, she chanted before delegates of the United
Nations during a conference in Los Angeles, and has performed and taught hula
in the Mainland US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and in China. While in China, she performed at a
banquet the Mayor of Sanya gave for a diplomatic trade mission, which
included dignitaries from Hawai`i, Washington DC, Hainan, and Beijing.
She also was asked to craft a traditional ancient style of lei for
presentation to the Mayor, and chant an oli she composed in honor of the
City of Sanya and the Island of Hainan. In
2006 Leilehua and her husband, Manu Josiah, introduced
Hula Ki`i to
Japan as guests of Yamazaki Sensei and her hālau.
Currently, in addition to running her
businesses, Leilehua is the hostess of Hawai`iana Live!, a weekly
Hawaiian cultural presentation produced each Wednesday morning at the
Hilo Palace Theater. She also teaches Hawaiian culture and
arts, and has given seminars, lectures, workshops, and classes for Queen
Lili`uokalani Children's Center, Kamehameha Traveling Preschool, The
Bishop Museum Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, the University of
Hawai`i, the US National Parks Service, and many private groups. She
also writes about various aspects of Hawaiian culture, and continues to
create her art.
She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i, the old family home which she
and her husband are restoring.
Teaching at Aloha Camp
Leilehua was one of the early
instructors at Keola Beamer's Aloha Music Camp where she taught a
variety of cultural crafts. "I felt so blessed to be one of the
early teachers at Keola Beamer's Aloha Music Camp. There is a reason
they put 'Aloha' first. Following are some photos which bring back
special memories for me."
Leading a nature walk on the beach at Moloka`i Camp.
Demonstrating crafting a kahili pa`a lima in 2003
Lei making at Kalani Honua