Hula with Hollis

Moving from Los Angeles at the age of 29 to the big island, Hollis had no intentions of learning the ways of the Hawaiian culture or being involved in Hula. But once her friend took her to an authentic hula performance and she saw the mana (or power) that the performer took in from above and then into her dance, she felt as if she had no other choice. Hollis was amazed by her talent and could see that the power and feeling the performer had achieved was something she desired to achieve as well. She found a woman called Auntie Edith that was famous throughout the islands for her teaching and performing of hula, and was able to take her classes at the university for free and quickly became one of her best students. Although Hollis was born in the mainland, it is clear that her personal identification with the Hawaiian culture and history is a strong one, something that links her to this island, and something that relates to her personally. Today, we were able to see Hollis as a woman who has mastered the art of traditional Hawaiian hula and chant, and who calls Hawaii her home. This morning she shared with us some very important things that she has done and made and that have made her into a true woman of Hawaiian identity.

While I had seen a great number of the things Hollis had to show us at the bishop museum: the gourd drum, the clothing, pieces of bamboo to decorate clothing, the rope and other materials used for instrument and accessories, I had not realized that people today were still making them in the traditional and laborious ways of the people before them. When she spoke of gathering the snail shells in the dark of morning, searching for correct tree to make her gras skirt (for lack of the proper hawaiian term) and bracelets, the many materials required for her shaker, or the ways in which bird feathers were collected in order to keep the birds alive and growing more feathers, all of these things were held as dear treasures to her because of all the hard work that she herself put into them. And she spoke of how her clothing, and really all of the items that she made, would not completely match that of the other people she danced with, that they all were a little different. She spoke of how these differences, that came from everyone making their own materials, and from the mana that each person out into their own treasures, gave each person an individual identity. This idea of individual identity and how that produces also a national or Hawaiian identity relates back to our time with John Osorio and also to some of our readings.

Osorio spoke to us and has also written about the importance of “talking story” in the way he teaches at the University but also in the way that the Hawaiian people should speak with their families and friends. This of course is in order to better understand the history and culture of the Hawaiian people and islands through the ancient stories of Hawaiian mythology. Osorio advocates this teaching style because he believes that within these stories lies the language, ancestry, genealogy, and history of the people and land; and that the knowledge of these things can bring a sense of belonging and identity to an individual that embraces these teachings. It is clear that the same concept can be used in the learning and performance of hula and chant, as hula illustrates through movement the stories of ancient Hawaii that are contained in the chants. From what I have learned about Hollis today: a woman who left the mainland unsure of where she really belonged, and finding her sense of belonging and identity in the Hawaiian islands and people through hula and chant. I must agree with Osorio’s theory and Hollis’ experience, and believe that the people of Hawaii will be able to identify with their individual identity through both talking story and the art of talking story through hula and chant.

Hollis describes the role of Pele in hula to the class

Hollis describes the role of Pele in hula to the class

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    great article and a great read thanks for sharing

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