|HAWAII: A RAINBOW OF CULTURAL RICHES
A world of traditions blending for centuries offers
cultural activities of colorful diversity
When moisture and sunshine combine in just the
right combination, the magical phenomenon of a rainbow occurs.
Hawaii is known as the Rainbow State because of the frequency with
which brilliant rainbows appear, arching over her valleys, cliffs
and beaches like welcoming beacons.
In Hawaii, the rainbow can also be seen as
symbolic of the various nationalities who have come to
the Islands and mixed with the native Hawaiians, adding their
own indelible imprint to Hawaii’s
photo: HVCB/Ron Dahlquist
The result is a true ethnic mosaic
which has created one of the most unique and colorful cultures in
the world. This Island penchant for perfecting combinations
continues to thrive alongside a resurgence of indigenous Hawaiiana.
Just a quick glance at Hawaii’s calendar of events is
more than enough
evidence of the way diversity has been woven into one
of ‘ohana, or family. It is proof that at times you can benefit greatly
by leaving the mundane existence of
reception furniture and computers behind. Your
reception seat will
surely be there when you get back but for now it's time for an exciting,
cultural adventure without any work interruptions. Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival,
Chinese New Year, the Fourth of July, Christmas, Buddha's Birthday and a
whole day devoted to Hawaii’s Aloha symbol, the lei, are all enjoyed by
residents and guests alike. The parades and street parties, called ho‘olaule‘a, that often accompany these events, are filled with
ethnically diverse music, foods and crafts.
The renewed interest in ancient Island traditions
sweeping across Hawaii can be experienced in hotels, parks and schools
at ‘ukulele competitions, Hawaiian chant, song and hula festivals. A new
recognition for the knowledge of kupuna, or elders, is also evident.
Originally, the hula was only for the benefit
of Hawaii’s elite. Banned by the early missionaries, it later
was seen as just a slick review for tourists.
Now, it is gaining
new appreciation as kahiko (ancient style) and ‘auana (modern
style) are kept alive by halau hula, or hula schools.
can enjoy this eloquent art form at various venues, including
Hilo’s Merrie Monarch Festival in April; The King Kamehameha
Annual Hula and Chant Competition held every June in Honolulu;
and the Moloka‘i Ka Hula Piko, held every May on Moloka‘i to
celebrate the birth of the dance on that Island.
photo: HVCB/Sri Maiava Rusden
Other Hawaiian artistic traditions are alive and well,
thanks in large part to respected artisans from varying backgrounds with
last names such as Gomes, McDonald and Omura. By studying the techniques
of the pre-European Hawaiians who, calling on nature for their
inspiration, fashioned wood, bone, plants, flowers, shells, stones and
fibers into artifacts which are now considered world-class in their
refined beauty, today’s gifted Islanders are bringing back these arts
with their true spirit, or mana.
Some of the traditional treasures that are available
from locals include hula instruments such as ipu gourds; woven lauhala
mats and baskets; and various sculptures and woodcrafts such as Hawaiian
calabashes, which are exquisitely-made bowls that were once used in
Another cultural treasure which is a piece of Hawaii
visitors can take home with them are the hand-made quilts, or kapa lau,
which Island women have been fashioning for over 150 years. Said to have
been first introduced by American missionary women, Hawaiians quickly
employed their own techniques, adapting their basic knowledge of using
the olona fiber as thread in attaching traditional kapa barkcloth to the
Legendary for the love and
craftsmanship put into them, each quilt pattern is given a name
by the maker, who is readily identifiable by her trademark
design. These modern heirlooms are said to tell stories and hold
Probably no symbol of Hawaiian
artistry is as readily identifiable – and loved – as the lei.
Used to mark special arrivals, departures, occasions and
achievements, the lei arrived with Hawaii’s first inhabitants
and continues to have special significance for both locals and
visitors. Reflecting Hawaii’s eclectic nature, lei come in many
colors, materials and designs. Lei can be made of fragrant
blossoms, leaves, vines, seeds, feathers and shells.
In fact, each island has its traditional
favorite, which is associated with her people. For example, Oahu
is known for leis made of the orange ‘ilima; Hawaii’s Big Island
for red lehua; Maui for the pink lokelani; and Ni‘ihau not for
flower lei at all, but ones made of tiny shells.
With so many amazing legacies
of Hawaii’s cultures to choose from, it’s fortunate for visitors
there are convenient ways to experience them. Various hotels
host pageants and shows that showcase Island pageantry, music
and hula, while Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center features
different cultures of Oceania at seven lagoon-side villages.
That been said, be sure and check in a great
Oahu hotel for a great island experience.
Strands of lei
photo: HVCB/Joe Solem
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce
offers guided walking tours through Honolulu’s Chinatown with
its Asian bazaars, markets, herbalists, temples, lei shops and
Chinese restaurants claimed by some to be superior to those in
Daily demonstrations of indigenous crafts, such as
wood carving and canoe building, are held at the Big Island’s City of
Refuge, or Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau. Maui’s Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens offer
pavilions and landscapes highlighting each of the cultures that settled
Hawaii, while Kauai’s Smith’s Tropical Paradise entertains visitors with
displays of fire dancing, hula, Filipino music and the Chinese Lion
Just as the rainbow combines its varied colors into a
single show of natural beauty, the many influences that make up Hawaii
offer a kaleidoscope of diverse cultural activities that visitors can
enjoy with singular satisfactions.
Article and Photos submitted by:
Hawaii Visitors and Convention
2270 Kalakaua Avenue, Suite 801
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815