Respecting the Traditions

One of the fun things with hula is watching others perform.  It is always interesting to see how a kumu or instructor interprets a hula; while moves are often similar, sometimes they’re very different because of the creator’s vision.

I was recently invited to The Villages (Florida) to see a hula show.  I’ve been to other events there and I’ve always been impressed.  So off I went, expecting a similar experience.  The hulas were indeed lovely, and Hawaiian music really is in a class by itself.

But something else occurred and it left me … stunned?  amazed?  disbelieving?

The husband of the woman who runs the hula group that performed was the emcee. During his presentations he made several statements that are easily proven to be incorrect:

  • the big island of Hawai’i was settled first … um, no, that would be Kauai
  • Night Marchers “folk tale” … according to the emcee this story is based on footprints in a lava flow on the Big Island; according to numerous references on this legend, the feet of the Night Marchers never touch the ground.
  • Princess Ruth and the Volcano “folk tale”:  this references the lava flow towards Hilo in 1881.  According to the emcee, during this time the Hawaiians were adding lots of gods to their religion  (traditional Hawaiian worship of the gods had actually been banned in 1819) plus King Kalakaua decided to abdicate his responsibility toward his people and take off for Europe while the lava advanced toward Hilo (he was the “Merrie Monarch” after all).  So he sent Princess Ruth to take care of his job.  Because she was overweight she was put into a cart to be taken to the lava and the horse pulling the cart died on the trip (yuk, yuk).  What really happened? Well, Princess Ruth did appeal to Pele and actually laid down to sleep in front of the lava; it stopped before it reached her.  It’s a true story, with no cart, no dead horse. And that “yuk” just became a “yuck”.
  • After the emcee had offered a “mahalo” to the dancers, he said that everyone in the audience now knew as much Hawaiian as he did, quickly followed by a “yeah, right” kind of statement.  I guess he didn’t know there were Hawaiians in attendance, nor those of us who also study both hula and the language.

As a librarian I just wanted to stand up and say… could you cite your sources please?  I’m certainly no expert on things Hawaiian, so if I can catch the mistakes, don’t you think others can as well? Oh, and that Hawaiian language bit?  Wanna go a couple of rounds?

At the beginning of the program there was a chanter.  This gentleman began the program by chanting the vowels as you would pronounce them in Hawaiian.  (I could not possibly make this up!)  He then roceeded to dance to the “Kunihi Ka Mauna” chant that I wrote about in an earlier post.  If you remember, this is a chant requesting permission to enter the halau; it is not a chant that is accompanied by dancing.  Not only did he not request permission to enter but he was already in the room and on the stage.  A bit late at that point to be asking to be allowed in.

According to the program, this particular group claims that they are “the original and largest authentic hula performance group in The Villages”.  Really?  Then shouldn’t the information being presented be accurate?  And certainly not demeaning to the people that you claim to be honoring?

I thought that this particular program was demeaning to both the Hawaiians and the haoles (the rest of us).  It seemed to presume that making fun of Hawaiians was perfectly acceptable, and it demeaned us haoles by presuming that we are not smart enough to know when we’re being had.   Why would you want to present misinformation? The real legends and stories are fascinating; they need no embellishment.  In today’s Google age, they just aren’t that difficult to find.  So I am left to wonder why these two individuals felt that this was a perfectly acceptable way to present a culture they claim to embrace.

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2 Responses to Respecting the Traditions

  1. bob says:

    It certainly does seem strange — these guys obviously didn’t do their homework. (How lazy can you get?)

    Did anyone respond to their blunders and clue them in? Not sure what the polite way would be to do that, but it’s something that definitely needed doing…

    • hulajourney says:

      Hey Bob… well, someone from the location posted this particular entry on their FB page. The group leader defriended her in response. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions…

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