Thursday, April 29, 2010

Merrie Monarch Hula Festival

The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, Hawaii's most prestigious hula competition involving hundreds of dancers, started the day I flew home. Although I missed the main event, attending the opening ceremony for the related Merrie Monarch craft show was a highlight of my time in Hawaii.

The ceremony opened with a chant. For those who can't view video, here's a photograph of some of the chanters:

Here are two videos showing the chanting. The first is more song-like, the second is more like fierce yelling. I wish I understood the meaning of the chants:

After the opening chants, the party began! One of the best parts of the party was seeing the "Gracious Ladies" hula group perform. For those of you who can't see video, here's a photo of them:

I love the fact that the Hawaiian definition of beauty is much broader than it is in the mainland United States. I love the fact that women who are not young and not thin feel confident enough to dance in front of an audience. They were, indeed, gracious ladies.

Here are a few videos of my favorite parts of their performance.
This is a dance about a grandmother babysitting her naughty grandchild:

I liked seeing how they used the coconut shells in this song:

Each of the ladies performed a solo in the "Hawaii in Me" song:

And also soloed in the Sophisticated Hula song:

But the musicians and dancers weren't the only entertainment. Someone brought their pet chickens to the event, and watching the children enjoy them was great entertainment!

This little boy was thrilled with the chicken on his shoulder:

Although at times the chicken did get a little out of control as the boy tried to also manage the bag of easter eggs he held:

I was interested to watch the little girl in the bottom left of this image, who was just dying to hold a chicken, but didn't get many chances because she was one of the smaller kids:

Once she finally got her chance to hold a chicken, she was as pleased and content as can be.

As you entered the art show, this kind young man offered you a drink of kava:

Once inside, you saw all sorts of beautiful and interesting things, like these wooden surfboards:

And this beautiful carving of a heron:

And this gorgeous Hawaiian quilt:

And this volcano-inspired art:

But even better than the exhibits were the people. This man is a carver, and was displaying a shark tooth weapon in his hat.

The weapons portion of the exhibit was off-limits to photography, at the request of the family that owned the items. The security guard who was there to enforce their wishes kindly allowed me to take a photo of him with his very cool tattoos.

Tattoos are a big part of Hawaiian culture. In ancient times, Hawaiian warriors wore body tattoos whose patterns signified their family ties, their loyalty to a particular chief, and their family's guardian spirit. Here's an image of a tattoo on the neck of one of the chanters.

Finally, I liked seeing this man with his typical hula lei:

Writing this post makes me realize that I really need to go back when I can attend the full, glorious Merrie Monarch event. It starts Easter Sunday each year. Let me know if you'd like to join me at this great celebration of Hawaiian culture sometime in the future!

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