I’m always behind in my blogging. I feel like I have 10 blog ideas a week and am lucky if I can actually find the time to write one. I kind of miss the days in High School when I would write in my livejournal two-three times a day. But then, those posts weren’t about things that needed to be coherent and I didn’t have to worry about issues such as professionalism, so maybe that’s what made it so easy. And that’s also the reason I requested LJ block all public access to the thing. lol. Trust me, no one wants to read the crap I wrote about from 2001-2005. It’s usually about school, boys, concerts… I was quite your average teenager. But that has nothing to do with this blog and I’m just going off on a tangent.
I know I’ve been promising a blog on Dance for the Land, but somehow whenever I have time to blog, I don’t have the actual book with me and I’d like to cite specific examples, so that will have to wait a little longer – hopefully I’ll find some time over the weekend.
What I AM going to discuss today is a meeting we had for Hawaiians in Los Angeles. I don’t know if I should post these things, or if this jeopardizes the book, but I think that it brings up some really important issues for Native Hawaiians and how western society views us as Hawaiians. And I don’t say who the meeting is with or anything, so how can it be traced… right?
First of all, it was a conference call between 6 people. Let me just tell you right now, that I ABHOR conference calls. Somehow, no matter how loudly I speak, no one seems to hear me so I can never get a word in edge-wise, and for some reason, people always come across to me as “not getting the point” or “they think I’m the stupid one”. I think that I actually like online-IMing meetings better because at least I can occupy my time with other activities and no one really knows. Although a friend did tell me about the wonderful invention called the “mute” button which would have been handy for this meeting in particular.
Traffic was bad, so by the time I got home, Christian (my husband) was already in the midst of conversation with the gang. It sounded like they hadn’t really discussed anything too important though. For the most part, it was an informational meeting – going over the basics like deadlines, how to scan pictures properly, word limits, etc. What was interesting were the examples that were used so that things could be how I interpret it as “brought to our level”.
For example, we were told that 75% of the book needs to be “vintage” photographs, i.e. approximately 1990 or earlier and the other 25% can be contemporary photos, i.e. looking like they were taken yesterday. Christian brought up the fact that quite a few of our pictures, theoretically look somewhat timeless (if you take out photo aging issues), particularly pictures of just hula dancers at events like Ho’olaule’a in Alondra Park. Now, I don’t know how many of you have been to Ho’olaule’a over the years, or how many years in a row, but I swear to you the stage looks almost exactly the same as it did when I was a baby over 20 years ago. It’s like they use the same exact palm trees in the background and the same set-up with the flags. They use the SAME trailer and the SAME people dance. Mu’us really haven’t change all that much over the last 20 years either, so a picture from last year’s Ho’olaule’a is going to look a lot like the one from 1990. (When I find a picture from 10 years ago, I’ll post it so you can compare. I thought I had some on FB but can’t seem to locate them currently. ..)
So our the response was that usually you can tell from hair styles, makeup, etc. What this told me was that she didn’t understand what we were saying. For example – Kahiko – Hair: Bun (this seems to be a universal hair-do in western civilization for quite awhile now), Makeup: None, Costume: Pa’u top, pa’u skirt. The same old shit that we’ve been wearing and dancing in since Kalakaua. It’s only the grainyness of the photo that distinguishes the time period ultimately. Now, Auana costumes can be a little more interpretive, but really there’s only so many ways you can make a mu’u and still call it a mu’u. So that was caution #1 that maybe she wasn’t too familiar with our culture.
#2. And this was the doozy. I actually had to leave the room because I got pretty irritated. It continues along the lines of our vintage vs. contemporary photo discussions. She said that we could put pre-California photos in. So, photos of our people back home in Hawaii. What she said (almost) exactly was “You could put in pictures of your family members before they came to California, while they were still in Hawaii as children. You could have a picture of them in the village they came from.”
Now, woah-woah-woah-woah! The VILLAGE they came from? When was Hawai’i illegally annexed? Ummmm 1898. Were people living in VILLAGES then? Not really. By that time they lived in these things called CITIES, just like what you and I live in in these here United States of A. ANd that was well over 100 years ago. So I think that we can safely say that no one who came to California since 1960 left a Hawaiian “Village”. Maybe you could call them a town. And I’m not saying there’s anythign wrong with living in a village. Many PI people still live in traditional villages. But those communities are also not part of one of the largest and most powerful nations on earth (by choice? that’s a separate issue). And when people here in America talk about people living in villages, its not usually in a context of some kind of first world, corporate competitive, westernized society. Instead, it’s usually discussing some place in a country we know little about because they haven’t tried to attack us and we haven’t tried to attack them country or location in which we feel sorry for them because they don’t have running water or enough to eat and aren’t Christianized. This is not the state Hawaii was in when it was take over. This is not the state Hawaii was in when my grandparents were born during Territorial days, and this is NOT the current state of the islands.
There may be issues of water rights, and who the land belongs to, and things like that, but these are all western problems. And while I may not completely agree with the complete westernization of the islands and how it happened, I recognize that we can never go back to “village” life, back before Kalakaua and Lunalilo, back to Captain Cook in the 1700s. Once the white man came, villages were out and towns and cities were in.
I think my biggest problem, as usual, is the lack of education and the lack of awareness people have about Hawaii. While I appreciate some people think they are going to a different country when they go there and don’ realize its America – I know that they aren’t thinking/saying those things out of protest of annexation or statehood – I know that they’re saying those things out of a lack of education and ignorance. Some people don’t actually know that Hawaii is the 50th State. That there were people there before White people and Americans. That there is an indigenous population who don’t trace their roots back to people with Biblical Names. And that those people still exist.
My greatest hope for our book is to dispel these myths. To show people that Hawaiians live and thrive everywhere – Not just in Hawaii, and not just in the past. That we don’t all dance hula. That we aren’t all a nice, deep tan or sepia, or whatever other exotic way someone wants to say deep brown. That we are current, functioning members of society who are proud of our past and ready to bring on the future while preserving the culture.