Arts and Culture in Hawaii
The Hawaiian Archipelago is made up of over 130 scattered points of land stretching 1,600 miles in length from the Kure Atoll in the north to the Island of Hawaii in the south. Hawaii's mid-Pacific location has made it a true cultural melting pot with a mix of Polynesian, Asian, and Western influences. But Hawaii also has its own indigenous culture that it is hesitant to abandon.
Today Hawaii is a modern and vibrant state that has plenty to offer the world when it comes to arts and culture. It has managed to retain its unique blend of multi-culturalism and distinct identity while still absorbing and contributing to contemporary culture across the United States.
Hawaii has its share of the high arts. The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1900, is the oldest orchestra west of the Rocky Mountains. It sometimes works in tandem with the Hawaii Opera Theatre and the Honolulu Symphony Chorus.
The Honolulu Symphony Chorus began in 1978. The O‘ahu Choral Society is a non-profit corporation that supports the chorus and which sponsors the Hawaii International Choral Festival. The chorus performs masterworks as well as Broadway music and holiday pops concerts. In 2003, the chorus played at Carnegie Hall in New York with the New England Symphonic Ensemble.
Founded in 1980, Hawaii Ballet Theatre has a broad, diverse repertory and also offers a series of youth concerts to elementary school students. The company is known for its annual presentation of The Nutcracker, which involves nearly all of Hawaii’s resident professional dancers, guest artists from the mainland, and many local ballet dancers. The ballet has performed with the Royal Hawaiian Band and the Honolulu Symphony, and has appeared in halls and even gymnasiums all over the islands.
Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT) got its start in 1960 as a subdivision of the Honolulu Symphony. Its first performance was Madame Butterfly performed by local artists. Today HOT is known for its artistic excellence and the company hosts many international artists who perform alongside the best Hawaiian dancers.
Hawaii enjoys lots of traditional and popular music. The Aloha state deserves credit for introducingslack-key guitar, a method of playing in which the strings on a classically tuned guitar are relaxed. Hawaii is also credited for the steel guitar sound, which requires the use of a slide called a "steel." The lap steel guitar was often called a "Hawaiian guitar" in the early 1900s. Country music often is performed with a steel guitar.
Traditional Hawaiian folk music utilizes chanting and dance and has historically deeply influenced music across Polynesia.
The Performing Arts Center at University of Hawaii, Hilo is a large performing arts educational and cultural center on the Big Island. It offers culturally diverse performing arts events year-round. Each season, it hosts over 150 performances of dance, drama, music, mime, children's shows, lectures, and special events both for students and the community at large.
Kauai’s biggest performance space is the Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center. TheNeal S. Blaisdell Center Arena is the biggest venue in Honolulu. Oahu has the Waikiki Shell in Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. The University of Hawaii at Manoa has both the Kennedy Theatre and theAndrews Amphitheatre. The Red Elephant is a performance space and recording studio in Honolulu. The Lanai Theatre opened in the 1930s and is a cultural landmark on Lanai.
The Slack Key Guitar Festival is held every year. The festival has been held in Honolulu on the island of Oahu for over 25 years and for over 15 years on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii. The festival began as a tribute to Gabby ‘Pops’ Pahinui, a legendary musician who paved the way for the "Hawaiian Renaissance" that started in the 1960’s. Gabby taught young Hawaiians that Hawaii’s traditional music, and in particular, Ki-ho’alu, was a valuable art form. Gabby is remembered as the father of the slack key guitar and one of its greatest players.
The Hawaii International Jazz Festival (HIJF) takes place on Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. Founded by Abe Weinstein in 1993, the HIJF celebrates the history of Hawaii’s own style of jazz which started in the early 1920s at venues like the Moana and Royal Hawaiian hotels.
Hula is very important to Hawaiian culture. Ancient Hawaiians had no written language and communicated with chants and the hula dance. Hula and its chants chronicled Hawaiian genealogy and mythology, as well as the people’s hopes and dreams. Hula was used to pass down information and share history through the generations.
The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival uses the slogan, "Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people." The festival has led to many people becoming interested in preserving the traditions of Hawaiian culture. The festival includes art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, and performances. People study and practice hula throughout the year including Hawaiian chants and songs to get ready for the festival. The chants, songs and dance depict Hawaiians' relationship with nature and other subjects. The festival ends with the hula competitions during which the judges decide the scores according to each aspect of the performance.
The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is a 42-acre living museum owned by Brigham Young University, Hawaii. The PCC is famous for its multicultural Polynesian show that features different songs and dances of Polynesia. The PCC also offers a canoe pageant that demonstrates the dances of each of the island groups.
The Hawaii Theatre in downtown Honolulu is known as the "Pride of the Pacific." It opened in 1922 and hosted vaudeville, plays, musicals, and silent films until it fell into disrepair. The theater was saved from destruction in 1986 and ten years later it reopened as a 1400-seat performance center. Today it offers a diverse program containing everything from Chinese traveling circuses to native Hawaiian opera singers. The theatre won awards from the League of Historic American Theatres in 2005 and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2006.
The Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is known for its multicultural theatre and dance. It has five focus areas: Asian Theatre, Western Theatre, Design, Youth Theatre, and Dance. Students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in theater and dance. The department mounts a full season of productions in the Kennedy Theatre for university and community audiences.
The Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) began in 1981 on the University of Hawaii Manoa campus in Honolulu. Its aim is to encourage understanding and cultural exchange between Asia, the Pacific, and North America using film. HIFF is renowned for introducing Asian and Pacific feature films to the world. It also celebrates films made by Hawaii filmmakers, especially those that truthfully depict Hawaiian culture. It holds free public screenings on the beach in the evening and has screened films on six Hawaiian islands. More than 950,000 people from around the world have attended HIFF screenings since the Festival began.
The Rainbow Film Festival in Honolulu got its start in 1989. It is held every year at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Run by the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation (HGLCF), the festival seeks to raise awareness of the community at large about gay & lesbian culture, arts, and lifestyle.
Hundreds of films have been shot in the Hawaii islands. In 2009, eight of them had made the list of the "Top Grossing Movies of All Time at the Worldwide Box Office." The films are: Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Godzilla, Pearl Harbor, Dinosaur, Jurassic Park III, andWaterworld.
The Hawaiian Writers Conference is held every fall in Honolulu. The conference specializes in fiction, nonfiction, and screenwriting but also offers workshops on the business of writing, children's and young adult books, journalism, and more. The list of the 2009 featured speakers and workshop leaders featured New York Times bestselling authors, Academy Award winners, and a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Maxine Hong Kingston moved to Hawaii in 1967 and published her first novel, The Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Girlhood among Ghosts in 1976. It received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
Lois-Ann Yamanaka was born in Molokai, Hawaii in 1961. She sometimes writes in Hawaiian Pidgin, and her work often deals with controversial ethnic issues. In particular, her works tackles contemporary themes concerning Asian American families and Hawaiian culture.
The Art Department at the University of Hawaii at Hilo offers studio art courses focusing on drawing, printmaking, and painting. Students continuing their education build portfolios which are required for graduate school admission. The Art Department and College of Arts and Sciences also offer customized study courses in the fine arts.
Toshiko Takaezu is a ceramic artist who was born in Hawaii in 1922 to Japanese immigrant parents. She studied at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and at the University of Hawaii. She studied Buddhism and traditional Japanese pottery in Japan and then taught at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Princeton University. Now retired as a teacher, she works in her Quakertown, New Jersey, studio.
The Keomailani Hanapi Foundation (KHF) received funding from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) in 2009 to implement a three-year Native Hawaiian Pilot Art Education Project calledHawaiian ‘Ohana for Education in the Arts (HOEA). The three phases of the project are designed to mirror the experiences of a successful artist. The project’s mission statement is "To increase the number, visibility and accessibility to Native Hawaiian Art and Artists." The long-term plan includes building a Community Art Center in Waimea in South Kohala, Hawaii. The final phase will be developing the center into an accredited postsecondary School of Hawaiian Fine Arts.
Ohana for Education in the Arts runs a four-week summer and two-week winter studio program in Waimea. The program is geared toward recent high school graduates and emerging adult artists who want to further develop their skills in the Native Hawaiian arts. The program honors the traditional teaching practice of 'imi haku that brings mentors and students into a close teaching-learning relationships. Master artists who participate in the program include woodworker Sol Apio and his son, woodturner Alani Apio, Māori carver and jeweler Stacy Gordine, kapa maker Marie McDonald and her daughter Roen Hufford, and printmaker Harinani Orme.
The first part of the program during the summer teaches the fundamentals of visual arts, including composition and color foundation in a variety of media. In addition, specialized instruction will includekapa, kālai lā'au, printmaking, and jewelry making.
HOEA also teaches the business side of creativity. They want to offer programs that have economic impact in Hawaii and that result in an income for artists. The expectation is that artists will leave the program equipped to establish their own art businesses in Hawaii.
Hawaii has experienced every style of architecture, from thatched shelters to Christian mission buildings to Art Deco. In the 20th century, the Hawaiian international style of architecture became popular. The Hawaii State Capitol and other buildings in downtown Honolulu are fine examples of this style that became very popular in the 1960s.
At that time, Bauhaus architecture was in vogue in much of the world and Hawaii Governor John A. Burns chose the style for his new Capitol building. The Capitol is typical of Bauhaus with its clean lines, simple geometric shapes, use of concrete, and its open structure. But the Capitol is also uniquely Hawaiian due to its use of native koa wood for doors and furnishings and a design motif that depicts natural Hawaii. The Capitol dome mimics the volcanic beginning of the Hawaiian Islands and a mosaic by Tadashi Sato representing the colors of the Hawaiian water. The nature and ocean theme is reiterated in the water surrounding the Capitol and the way in which the building faces both the ocean and the inward mountains.
HANDICRAFT AND FOLK ART
An exhibit mounted at the Honolulu Academy of Art through April 2010 displays Hawaiian textiles and reveals the stories they tell. The exhibit features quilts, feather lei, dresses, bags and other family treasures that were typically worn, made, or used by the donor’s grandmother, hence the name of the exhibit, "In Honor of Grandmother."
The exhibit began with a Hawaiian quilt that was donated to the academy by the grandson of the academy’s founder, Anna Rice Cooke. The quilt is called "Ka’ohu o Halemano" (The Mists of Halemano), and was made by Ella Victor. Another quilt on display belonged to Joseph Farrington, a Republican senator for Hawaii’s Territorial Legislature. His grandmother made the quilt during the Civil War. Two feather lei are part of the exhibit. They were given to the Academy in 1951 by British naturalist, R.C. Perkins. They belonged to King Lunalilo’s grandmother, Princess Miriam Kalakua Kaheiheimaile. After that, they were owned by H.G. Crabbe, who was postmaster of Hawaii and later, court chamberlain to Lunalilo. Crabbe gave the lei to Perkins’ wife, Zoe.
HISTORIC ART MOVEMENTS
Hawaiian bark cloth or Hawaiian kapa is a Polynesian bark cloth collectively known as ‘tapa.’ Hawaiian kapa practitioners began receiving recognition in the last 30 years for their work in keeping alive native arts. In other pacific islands, bark cloth culture has still been practiced over the last several hundred years but it was lost in Hawaii. Hawaii became a melting pot of many different cultures and was pressured to drop its native ways when it became a part of the United States. Many Hawaiian arts were lost for this reason. But today, there are modern kapa makers who have studied the ancient tradition and are keeping it alive.
Kapa is a fabric made from fibers of specific trees and shrubs. The Hawaiian Islands had its own distinct method of creating kapa using the wauke tree. Hawaiian kapa was used mostly for clothing—men wore a kapa loincloth called a "malo" and women wore a wrap-around dress called a "pāʻū." Bed covers called "kapa moe" were used by people of the chiefly caste and kapa robes were used by people of the priestly caste, called "kāhuna."
-World Trade Press