Hawaii Culture and Arts

Hawaii Culture and Arts

Mythology of Hawaii

One legend, among the most evocative of the rich Hawaiian pantheon, tells of the birth of the islands. It features two enemy sisters: Skin, goddess of fire, and Na Maka o 'Kahai, her sister, sovereign of the sea. The first is irascible, quick as lightning and capable of a thousand tricks, like the bubbling lava that she embodies. The second is stubborn and stubborn, like the endless onslaught of waves on the coast.

The myth evokes the long journey of Pele, coming from Tahiti to Hawaii, then his desperate search for a refuge. It is she who builds with her thunderbolts, one after the other, the volcanoes of the archipelago - and therefore its islands. Wasted effort. First victorious after her eruption, Pele was nonetheless inevitably defeated. She is flushed out by her sister, her eternal rival, who saps the coasts of friable lava with her furious waters until they erase them, leaving only atolls in the end.

The greatest sailors in the world

The legends meet both geological and historical reality. The voyage to Tahiti is the one made by the Polynesian colonists - the second wave of colonists, more precisely, the first having left half a millennium earlier, as early as the XNUMXth century AD, from the Marquesas Islands.

The discoveries of archaeologists, linguists and geneticists are gradually drawing the portrait of the most incredible human migration never achieved: the conquest of the Pacific, in successive waves, by groups of men and women who left South-East Asia 50 years ago.
Scathing aboard canoes, then large double-hulled canoes (similar to current catamarans) developed as their mastery of navigation asserted itself, over the centuries they have occupied a third of the planet.
The black peoples of the first migrations, ancestors of the Aborigines of Australia and the Melanesians, were relayed around 5 BC. AD by the Austronesian-speaking peoples, one of whose branches has spread to Madagascar!

In the east, from 1 BC. BC, the Lapitas group reached Tonga and the Samoas where, in their wake, a culture of its own was formed: the Polynesians were born. From these island bastions, these unparalleled sailors, navigating the sea with the sole help of the stars, planets and their movements, would conquer a territory larger than any other people in history: the Marquesas, the first of where the Tuamotus, Hawaii and Easter Island were won. Other islands today deserted were occupied, then abandoned.

The conquest of the great ocean ended with the colonization of New Zealand around the year 1, defining the Polynesian triangle, the largest cultural space ever shaped by one and the same people. The archipelagos, although they did not form a nation in the political sense, for the most part maintained commercial and cultural links. The remoteness of Hawaii saw the archipelago develop in autarky, with increasingly spaced contacts, until the link was broken around the fourteenth century.

Social and religious rules

A culture of its own, strong in its identity, is developing in Hawaii, without calling into question the common Polynesian soil: everything in this world is sacred.
The relaxation observed by European discoverers is only apparent. In reality, Polynesian and Hawaiian societies even more, are governed by innumerable social and religious rules based on a rigid system of castes and kapu (taboo). ali'i, priests and chiefs, intermediaries between men and gods, have the right of life and death over the people (kama'aina) - who do not even have the right to cross their shadow. To each his own food, to each his own surfboard, longer for the ali'i and cut from better wood, to each his own spot ...

On each island, the land is divided between the ali'i in equal parts (ahupua'a), like cutting a cake, from the top of the mountains to the shore. The people gathered in 'ohana (extended families) work there in common according to a calendar responding to specific rituals.

Over time, Lono, the god of agriculture, takes an increasingly important place, in direct competition with Ku, the god of war.
This does not prevent the leaders from engaging in frequent fighting in an attempt to expand their territory. They are not lethal enough, but that does not prevent human sacrifices, nor ritual cannibalism. A victory is an opportunity for a leader to expand his mana, his spiritual power, and that of his tribe.

In the 300th century, before the arrival of the West, Hawaii's population was estimated to be between 000 and 500.

Emergence of a temporal power

Captain Cook and his successors landed in 1778, when the archipelago was in the process of being unified. In 1810, the king kamehameha imposes its power on all the islands. The first Western merchants have already dropped anchor and, in their wake, Protestant Tahitian missionaries. Despite their first failures, they make a touch of choice with Ka'ahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha, a visionary who undoubtedly sees in the religion of foreigners an instrument of new power.
Under his influence, Liholiho, his stepson, crowned at 23 under the title of Kamehameha II, accepts during a lunch engraved in the memories of challenge the kapu which forbids men and women to eat together. The royal couple encountered little resistance when they announced the destruction of idols and heiau (temples). In a few months, a religious system more than 1 years old disappeared.

It was at this time that the congregational missionaries. Convinced of their moral superiority and of their civilizing role, considering with suspicion and sometimes horror the customs of the Hawaiians, they invent an alphabet to translate the Bible, create schools to disseminate their teachings, build churches in palm trees and forbid all kinds of activities. How can we tolerate that men can appear so far removed from divine judgment?
The chimerical paradise lost from the Age of Enlightenment has no place in the minds of these zealots of intolerant faith. No more drinking, gambling, adultery, but also surfing ("futile"), hula ("indecent"), singing, wearing lei (flower necklaces) and interracial marriages. It takes all the weight of the example provided by Ka'ahumanu to convince the Hawaiians to submit to these customs.

Little by little, the whole Hawaiian culture is fading: the children of missionaries, who have become businessmen, obtain the privatization of the land without almost resistance. An inanity for a people whose borders have only ever had social and non-legal bases.

Cultural (and political) renaissance

Taken to the throne in 1874, Kalakaua, the Merry Monarch ("happy king") presides over a certain cultural renaissance. But he himself is torn between his taste for traditions and his taste for Western splendor. Great reveler, he covered himself with debts. Two years after her death, in 1893, her sister Queen Lili'uokalani, the last Queen of Hawaii, was overthrown by settlers. The Hawaiian language is kicked out of school.

La desert crossing is endless. World War II forcibly anchored Hawaii to the United States, while radio broadcasts paint deep into Nebraska and Wisconsin dreamy islands, a paradise embodied by the trade winds and vibrating to the sound of the ukulele. Mass tourism is on the move.
But in this new setting, Hawaiians have become extras: they are dancers, bellboys, waiters, cooks or maids. It is only thanks to the fighting of black Americans that a first awareness settles in the archipelago: dark skin, rights violated, the common points are obvious. In 1976, 9 young Hawaiians landed on the sacred island of Kaho'olawe to protest against the training bombings carried out there by the Navy for 35 years. The following year, two of them disappeared: the first martyrs of fight for emancipation. Hawaiian interest groups are forming everywhere. Dance, a cultural symbol, comes out of its tourist straitjacket. The tattoo returns to the honor and, with it, the pride of being different.

In 1993, President Clinton signed theApology Resolution, who apologizes for the United States' support for the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani a century earlier. A gesture that earned him the recognition of all Hawaiians and further affirms the democratic roots of the archipelago.
This new base allowed the autonomists to polish their weapons. In the absence of being able to deal with the root of the problem (the loss of representativeness of Hawaiians in their homeland), the legal form remains: the kingdom never having had a legal end, it still exists or must be restored! An appeal has been filed to this effect before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

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