Our day at Northwest Folklife 2018 was so full of life, love, and connectedness, that we didn't have a moment to take a proper group photo! I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to meet so many bright (and then sweaty) faces as we danced it out under the sun in the early morning session for children at the outdoor Seattle Center Discovery Zone; and then, again, as we danced indoors at the Armory Loft Room 3 later in the afternoon. At the Discovery Zone, I fortunately welcomed a young Alaka'i (leader) to the stage who joined me for the entire workshop. She asked poignant questions related to Disney's recent Moana. "Are you Moana? You look like Moana."
To this I always answer with a smile. "Moana looks like me."
It's true. Our people, Polynesians, settled in the islands of the Pacific as early as the 3rd Century, over 1,800 years ago. The directors of Moana visited our islands and asked our elders to share our stories. My Alaka'i preceded to ask me then about the legends in Moana - Maui? Teka? And so, I told the legends I learned as a child, the legend of Maui and how he snared the sun atop Haleakalā, the house of the sun. Of Teka, I told her the legend of Pele who sailed from Tahiti with her brother Kamohoali'i leading the way; Pele, whose volcanic powers were in full force on Hawai'i island, today. Mahalo nui loa, e young Alaka'i, for your inspiration and for guiding me back to the stories of my people.
In the second workshop, the Armory room filled with over 60 participants, mostly adults, and many who were a part of our islander and hula-dancing community in Seattle. It was such a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and so many new. We discussed the Hawaiian heart or na'au, of speaking with truth; brief lessons of Hawaiian history and language; and my kuleana or responsibility to continue learning and sharing the practice of my people, an opportunity not afforded to my own Native Hawaiian mother due to the affects of colonization and intolerance. So, today we dance. We also looked over the language and story of Ho'opuka E Ka Lā Ma Ka Hikina, a hula ka'i whose powers summon for the blessings of the gods to connect with us on this land. Mahalo nui loa for all the hula 'olapa and the nā haumāna hou who joined us this day. I hope to dance together again, soon! A hui hou.
We circle back to an entire year of work and dedication culminated in a first anniversary performance of Huraiti Mana at the API Heritage Month Celebration! We were excited to share with our family, friends, and community that we are united in the efforts to perpetuate and celebrate our cultures, our stories, and our spirits. We opened our performance with hula kahiko, a traditional and ancient form of hula, percussion, and chant, honoring our Queen and last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Ke Ali'i Lili'uokalani. We moved into a hula 'auana number with contemporary musical instruments and melodic tunes with Justin Young's rendition of a hula classic, Ka Manu. And we finished our performance with ori Tahiti or Tahitian dance, including choreography to Moemoea by Sefa. Friends and family in the Seattle Center joined us onstage and rounded out our performance with a fast lesson in Tahitian dance. Our finale always brings smiles and laughs, but for myself, it also brings a joyous empathy and compassion. Joining together in dance is what I strive most for in this life, no matter how briefly. Dance connects us all.
Immediately after leaving the stage, we jumped in to a quick interview with API Heritage Month, and our huraiti so kindly, and with so much aloha, shared their spirits. Huraiti Mana is about empowerment, about self awareness and self expression. It is about 'ohana - our family. It is about us all. I am so very grateful to be a part of this growing, evolving, inspiring, loving, and caring 'ohana.
During our lei-making workshop that followed the performance, Sam Le of the Northwest Asian Weekly circled to our tables and asked, "why is it important to celebrate your heritage?"
"It is important to celebrate our heritage because it breathes life and meaning into our identities and our knowledge of who we are. It is always important to explore the past and see how our heritage is with us today."
This past year has been an amazing year filled with learning, compassion, dedication, and inspiration. Ia vai e Huriati Mana! Ei aha roa to oe hiro'a e ia mo'e e to'u nuna'a! May you always have the consciousness of your origin. I will always remember how we became a family, and how we will continue to be so today and furthermore. Mauruuru roa e nā Huraiti no tou aroha.
We were so excited to announce Huraiti Mana's participation in Northwest Folklife's newest program Our Big Neighborhood and to be able to participate in their Movin' Around the World segment focused on Polynesia. This week marked the Spring Break for many schools in the nearby area, which meant lots of youth and families were able to come through Seattle Center. There, they could find program after program featuring teaching artists from across disciplines, across cultures, and for some - like Etienne of Gansango whom I met and learned was originally from West Africa - from across the globe.
The morning began with a generous invitation from Q13 Fox News to feature Huraiti Mana in their early morning live broadcast to help share the news of Northwest Folklife's youth event! I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful, charismatic, energetic, super-real, and quick-witted Ellen Tailor. The Q13 Fox Morning Features Reporter and I talked-story about our heritage, her Greek background and my Native-Hawaiian, about the similarities of laughable language barriers, of appreciating our elders, and of a peoples' resilience.
My day continued with performances and workshops led by Halau 'O Napualani's Kumu Gloria and Bill Nahalea (both of whom also run the non-profit organization Pacific 'Ohana Foundation (POF)). It was so beautiful to see so many keiki (children) perform and help teach hula and Maori poi ball dancing! My hands were twitching the whole time - it's hard for a dancer to watch others and not feel compelled to join!
And following this, I had an absolutely amazing time meeting the bright faces and inquisitive minds of so many youth during Huraiti Mana's 45-minute hula workshop. There is Hawaiian proverb: a'a i ka hula. Dare to dance. And these youth danced unabashedly, learning kāholo, hela, and 'uwehe steps. They listened to my story as I recited "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai" and danced. After watching intently and listening to nothing but 'ōlelo Hawa'i (Hawaiian language), they repeated to me the story they saw unfold before them; "in the beginning, you were looking at sea-waves," "and you loved it and shared it with everyone," "and the plants of the ocean smelled good." 'Ae. Pololei. They in turn stood to learn and perform this story - and they did so beautifully.
Questions followed after I left the stage and youth gathered around: "when you dance hula, how come you always dance with flowers?" "How come you dance barefoot when you're doing hula?" "Do you always dance hula?" Questions we look forward to addressing each day with Huraiti Mana.
Our sincerest mahalo to Anna and Leta of the Northwest Folklife team for having Huraiti Mana as a part of your innovative program to engage our youth and create empathy across the many cultures that create our big neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.
Huraiti Mana was kindly invited by the College & Career Readiness team of the Highline School District to participate in the high school's Multilingual and multicultural career fair as a community career partner. Students sat down to an introduction to the fair's main themes: that multilingual skills and multicultural backgrounds are an invaluable asset to our everyday lives and can be used to help each of us thrive in our future endeavors. There are many creative opportunities out there for us multicultural people of color to achieve and in which to excel. Many students in our communities of color are soon to become the first in their families to graduate high school and the first to attend college. This endeavor is very exciting - but it can also be intimidating. So, Highline High School has been building ways to engage their students in networking opportunities to prepare them for their next chapter.
Following an introduction to our goals, students split into small groups and visited various tables of community partners to learn more about job opportunities, resources, and experiences. At the table for Huraiti Mana, as Rayann Kalei'okalani Onzuka, I shared about my experiences with Huraiti Mana as a business and cultural community partner, but I also shared about other organizations in which my cultural work has developed. Organizations including the Wing Luke Museum where I've exhibited my work and am also the Director of Museum Services; and Arts Corps, where I am a Master Teaching Artist instructing after-school hula classes. Students asked me questions about starting my own business, building skills for design and accounting, and why I chose particular majors to study in college. I was able to follow up with individual students after the fair, and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience.
It's been great to meet curious students and hear about their dreams: some wanted to begin a restaurant or food truck and others wanted some type of business "but I'm not sure what, just yet." I suggested joining clubs on campus to build resumes and receive "free professional training" in a way; if you want to create a restaurant someday, become your club's Food Logistics Chair and learn about permits, licensing, and catering for your club's annual food-centered fundraiser. Or, if you don't want to begin a business, there are other ways to be creative; such as suggesting a new job position at your organization, one that will be mutually beneficial and fits your unique skill set. Although conversations were short with only an hour and six career partners to visit (including Seattle Times, Interpreters, and more), they sparked inspiration and excitement - for students, but most definitely for myself as well. I realize there are many more ways to partner with the community and tabling opportunities would be great to continue!
Students shared feedback with organizers of the event:
Northwest Folklife has partnered with Seattle Center for a three-year venture called Our Big Neighborhood! Our Big Neighborhood will provide year-long opportunities for youth and families to participate in folk, ethnic, and traditional arts with multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and intergenerational programming. Huraiti Mana has loved joining Northwest Folklife and Seattle Children's Festival for their past programs, and we are so very excited to be a part of their first-ever Our Big Neighborhood events! Huraiti Mana will be hosting a hula dance workshop at the Seattle Center as a part of their Movin' Around the World celebration. Please enjoy this half-hour hula dance class where you'll see what a class with Huraiti Mana is like: filled with laughter, stories, and passionate work.
The Meridian Schools so kindly invited Huraiti Mana back to participate in their amazing educational programs such as the annual Global Citizen's Symposium. The Meridian Schools faculty and staff believe "that the challenges of our world require culturally competent, well-rounded, critically thinking individuals who are prepared to be responsible and active local and global citizens. This symposium offers an opportunity to expose our students to leaders who promote local and global social change in many different ways. Through a variety of workshops, we seek to inspire and empower our students by learning how people help to improve conditions in their communities with everyday big and small contributions."
Huraiti Mana hosted a lei-making workshop focusing on the wili style in Native Hawaiian lei lā'ī or ti-leaf lei. First, we begin with our oli kahea, an entrance or permission chant. We center ourselves. Open ourselves to new wisdom and experience. Some students focused and closed their eyes while oli filled the room. Then, we agree upon ka papa oia'i'o - our class values - to (1) care for and be kind to our space, our environment; take only what you need. (2) To be kind to ourselves and give ourselves time; be patient with our work. And (3) value the experience and our lei. Then, we create! And afterwards we ask: was it challenging? "Yes!" If you were to give others' your lei, would they understand or see how challenging it was? "Yes, maybe, no!" Our answers varied. Perhaps it is because they may not have experienced this process or seen this process before. It is important that we do experience other people's practices, even if for a moment, because it is not until we understand a small portion of the experience - the spirituality of oli, the mālama or care for our land, the difficulty and labor of love in lei - that we understand the significance, the meaning, and the love of a people's tradition. We create empathy for people other than our own. And for those who are Native Hawaiian, we create empathy for ourselves and our people. It is with this kind of understanding we hope students and teachers carry forward in the world.
There were so many amazing artists I met in passing between our workshops, Roger with his captivating Native American Indian Story Telling, Nahaan with Carving and Design from Alaskan heritage (children carved using soap!), Arturo with Afro-Cuban drumming, and so many more. It is an honor to work within such a great program and community. Mahalo nui loa!
All are welcome to the Wing Luke Museum's Family Fun Day!
Event: Family Fun Day
Place: Wing Luke Museum 719 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104
Date: Saturday, November 18, 2017
Time: 10AM-5PM full of activities and film screenings (exact time of lei-making TBD)
Admission to the museum galleries are by donation all day!
The Wing Luke Museum will soon be opening its next Pacific Islander exhibit (opening on Thursday, December 7). Featured in the exhibit will be lei created by Kalei'okalani of Huraiti Mana and lei created by YOU! Join us as we learn how to craft orchid lei, ti-leaf lei, and more. Lei will then be displayed in the upcoming exhibit featuring Pacific Islander artists and exploring questions about the future of our Pacific Islander communities.
Although graduation season is over, I'm still creating wili lei at every chance I get. Wili is the traditional Native-Hawaiian style of wrapping flowers and greens with raffia material to create stunning lei. Away from home, I'm unable to use most traditional flower like ohi'a lehua or plumeria, but I learn to carry on tradition with new elements I find here in my second home, Seattle. Making lei is a labor of love, a tradition known across the islands of the Pacific. Lei connects us all. It is a calming, soothing, and creative process, one that strengthens connections between those who create lei and those for whom they are made. Coming soon, Huraiti Mana will be hosting Wili Iti - workshops for creating your very own lei for someone special, as a keepsake, or as a celebratory gift. Stay posted. Aloha no!
Our first-ever Northwest Folklife Festival appearance! Huraiti Mana held a 45-minute hula cultural workshop, sharing stories, laughing, and working hard together as we discussed briefly about my experiences teaching dance and about the history of Native-Hawaiian traditions, while, of course, dancing hula. It was a hot, sunny day in Seattle, and we were feeling it as we moved through proper form and stance, exercised basic hula step, and touched on contemporary choreography. Following our dance workshop, we moved into the kid's Discovery Zone and hosted lei-making with fresh orchids. Keiki, or children, asked about the ancient traditions behind lei-making while their parents flipped through books about various master lei-making styles and techniques. We had such great conversations and met a lot of folks that day. Mahalo nui loa to everyone who joined us, and we hope you enjoyed yourselves!
May day is lei day in Hawai'i nei! Spent lei day making lei po'o or hei for our upcoming performance with the API Heritage Month Celebration! My hale (house) looks like a forest, and the smells remind me of home. Happy lei day, everyone!
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