Tuesdays at Bishop Museum

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My mind has become very dull. I need to challenge it. By dull, I mean giving children’s tours at Bishop museum has made me complacent. Giving adult tours always keeps me on my toes.

Fridays at Bishop have an abundance of docents and none want to give up their public tours. Not many want to do the children’s tours either. So when the museum re-opened their doors on Tuesdays I jumped at the chance. I knew I would once again be able to do regular adult, public tours.

After the museum had closed it’s doors on Tuesdays, for financial reasons, a way was found to once again welcome the public back that week day.

Kids aren’t my thing. As I had said my brain was starting to atrophy having to talk down to them. When I did get to substitute on Fridays and do adults I was finding I was having a hard time describing artifacts and culture in a more mature way.

Now having started in the last part of 2015 on Tuesdays I am once again researching and trying to switch my tours up to a more interesting subject to keep adults interested. I am not complaining. I love research but the funny thing is I’ve discovered I miss the kids. So starting the first of January we started booking them once again now on Tuesdays.

Guess who is able to do both children and adults? Me! With mixed feelings I have started back with the kids with the provision that I still get to do one public tour each week along with the kids. My brain is being challenged. I do realize now that it takes just as much work to keep the kids interested as it does adults.

Today on my children’s and adult tours I stopped to talk about the Hale Pili. I always ask the children what they think this particular Hale (house) was used for. You can read about it in this past post https://kareninhonolulu.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=524&action=edit

Today with the adults it was interesting as they asked questions I was not prepared for.

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It was a simple question and one that I could not answer. So I had to do research. Someone had asked me where did the adult children who married go when they needed their own houses. Hmmm. Well I knew families did stay together but just how?

What I found was they added on a hale or house in the compound where the parents lived with other families or they built a large Hale to accommodate everyone.  I found this quote from the book ” Arts and Crafts of Hawaii” on page 77,  amusing. “…some persons had no houses but lived on the hospitality of others,” and he refers to such person contemptuously as “o-kea-ili-mai (drift gravel) and “uni-pehiiole” (stone to throw at a rat).” Even back then they had the problems with unwanted guest.

On further research I found hales had one door. It was a very low door so that you had to crawl into the sleeping house. This had a purpose. When winds would blow it helped to keep them from wafting through the dwelling. Also in the middle of the sleeping hale was a small pit to keep a fire burning throughout the night. Though it helped to heat the area its main purpose was to keep spirits that roamed during the night out of the house.

There were many common areas too that everyone shared so it was just a matter of one or two houses being needed for sleeping. Cooking was done by the men, women ate together with the very young children in their own hale, and men ate together in theirs. They had hales for fishing equipment, working on household items such as kapa, baskets and mats.

I never thought about this but it makes sense. They did not have problems with bugs or pest coming into the sleeping hale at night because they did not have any. It was not until the Europeans and whalers started to arrive bringing pest and illnesses with them.

The larger introduced animals also meant big problems as they started to eat the grass off of the Hawaiian’s dwellings! They also ate the grasses and leaves used to make the hales. It gave new meaning to being eaten out of house and home.

I am so happy to be back to the public tours and having this one simple question has given me much to add to my bag of tricks so to speak. I know the kids will really enjoy hearing about the cows eating the houses. Oh those kids they laugh at the darnedest things.

Information about the Hales comes from the book “Hawaiian Culture”page 198-201

When They Call, You Must Go

This is an experience I had years back when Hawaiian Hall at Bishop Museum was undergoing restoration. I love these experiences and enjoy sharing them. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

The sun was out, and the whole Koolau range was in view. Sun and blue skies equal no people at the museum. As I stood in the main entrance a few people passed into the Kahili room. Maybe a couple viewed the art in the vestibule.

In the quiet I heard someone singing. Now you have to remember that lots of people have had ghostly experiences in this hall and I was not sure what I heard. But the sound was definitely there. Then it became muffled. I didn’t want to trudge up the two flights of stairs to check what was going on. The only people who had ventured to the upper exhibit area was a very pleasant Hawaiian couple.
But I still heard the singing and it was coming from above. I called over to security and told them to look into their cameras to see if someone was singing in the photo gallery.
“Yeah, someone is, let me get one of the security over there.”
Now I could hear the singing clearer and it sounded like chanting. The young guard came through the main doors and headed up the stairs. Soon the chanting became louder and I was curious. So I ascended the stairs also.
The doors to the exhibit hall had been closed and now one was ajar. I knew that they were supposed to be opened. I entered and saw the guard talking to the male of the Hawaiian Couple. The woman was in a corner, arms raised in supplication, moving gracefully,chanting. I approached the guard who was now in a mildly heated conversation.
The Hawaiian man was being told that he could not be chanting or singing or doing anything in the museum without permission and that they had to leave.
In the past there have been demonstrations and even artifacts have disappeared and the guard was worried that this could be some kind of demonstration. The gentleman was stating that the things of the museum were part of his ancestry and he gestured around the room.
The woman was still chanting as the discussion went on and then the security received a call from the office asking what was status of the situation. He stated that a woman and man were singing and he was trying to get them to leave.
I on the other hand saw that they were chanting as I had seen many times before in the museum. I did not feel that they were protesters but that they were paying their respects. Although other chanters always requested permission before doing so.
After a time the woman finished and came over to us and started speaking Hawaiian. I only understood a word here and there but, really, had no idea what she was saying. When all was said and done it was explained that she had come to say a prayer or a pule. At least that is what I think she said.
They were from the island of Hawaii. The woman said that she had been called by the spirits of her Kupuna or ancestors. They had been appealing to her to please come to the museum as they were being neglected and hid away. She said that she came to reassure them and to honor them and help them to be at peace. Now she is telling me this in half English and half Hawaiian so I am not sure that I got it all correct. I just knew that maybe my boss, Kealoha, would arrive soon as he would know how to interact.
Really the chanting was beautiful and she was graceful and kind. And I guess when it comes to the Hawaiian culture my heart goes out to that community for all the suffering that has taken place in the past. I knew that once Kealoha arrived  he would make it all well.
I mentioned that though nothing was wrong with chanting and that what she was doing was fine they just needed to make arrangements and then I explained to her why the room that she was in was so changed. She was upset at seeing all of the artifacts, that were once in the room, were gone and it was now just paintings. She felt that was why she was being called. I told her that the room had been restored to its original condition like it was when the Museum opened in 1898.
I told her that many things were going to be different once all restoration was finished and that much more of the Hawaiian artifacts were going to be brought out that weren’t displayed before. She was very happy to hear that and asked if she could go on to the other exhibit areas. I said it was fine as long as she didn’t chant and that Kealoha would be in soon and she could talk to him.
As I got  back to the main floor many people had arrived and so I announced that I would be doing a tour and people began to gather. As I started to talk, Kealoha and the Hawaiian couple entered into the Kahili room. Soon sounds of chanting could be heard. All the heads turned. I explained what it was and let them listen for a while which they did with much appreciation.
As I was into the middle of my tour the coupled left and nodded as they headed out the door. I felt good, I believe the kupuna, also, felt good, and certainly the visitors enjoyed witnessing a bit of the Hawaiian culture. I love it when that happens.
The ancestors had called, they were heard and she answered.

A Tutu By Any other Name is Definitely Not A Tutu (Grandma)

It’s Friday. So I must be at the museum. When I open the door to the atrium to enter what is usually an empty area, I am surprised by a room full of people. Blocking the door on the other side of the room is Emily, a docent my age, holding a beautiful little baby. Cameras are flashing, and the room is abuzz as she stands for this photo opp.

Hmmm, what is going on I’m thinking as I try to figure out how I’m going to go through this swarm of people. From across the room on the other side near the other entrance are some of the employees I work with. They are dressed ready to do a special performance for the honoree. One of them frantically waves me towards her signalling me to go through the entrance in back of them.

Quickly I snake my way through and pass her and then as I pass the other employee behind her he whispers to me “Bishop Tutu.”I nod and go past  quickly. As I enter the hall I’m perplexed. “Are they designating Emily the Tutu (Grandmother) of Bishop Museum?” She volunteers as a docent she serves on boards and is always available for anything they need her for. And she is a grandmother. So why not?

Getting to the front of the hall I see another employee, Bill, standing out front re-routing people and asking them to please understand that for about 10 more minutes the back atrium is blocked and the museum will then once again be open.

Wow, all this to name someone Tutu of the museum? “Why are you re-routing everyone, why aren’t we (all the docents) allowed back there? What’s the big deal about a tutu? Just then one of the more senior people of the museum came by and said, “Did you get to see Desmond Tutu?

“Desmond Tutu?” Where is he? I saw Emily getting her photo taken but didn’t know he was here. So I was taken to the back where all the upper echelon of the museum milled around, and there sat Desmond Tutu. What a trill to actually see the man. It was more exciting to me then the time I gave Senator Inouye a tour of the museum.

Desmond Tutu served 6 years as Chair for an organization known as the “Elders”, a group formed to use their  influence to support peace building. He was here to take part in a series of ongoing visits for the “Pillars of Peace Hawaii,” a Hawaiian organization  formed to inspire people to compassion, cultivate justice and diversity in our society.

Along with Desmond Tutu at the museum was Gro Harlem Brundtland. She was the first woman Prime Minister of Norway and serves as Deputy Chair of The Elders. Also attending was Hina Jilani a renowned lawyer and pro-democracy campaigner. She is a leading activist in Pakistan’s women’s movement. She has dedicated her life to fight for human rights around the world.

And as for the “Bishop Tutu?” Well it certainly wasn’t Emily though it was her grandson who Desmond Tutu was enthralled with. Hence the Kodak moments. But Bishop Tutu it was. He was the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize  in 1984 for his work in the struggle against apartheid.

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Desmond Tutu. I am not sure if the woman behind him was one of his daughters.

Well you know I wasn’t exactly introduced to him.

ImageSeated to the right of Desmond Tutu are, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Hina Jilani

And no I am not in the photo but just as happy to be able to have taken it.

Food for Thought

I like listening to book reviews. One of my favorites is “Books on the Nightstand” podcast. Lately they have been having discussions about how reading is the same as listening to an audio book.

That can’t be true I thought. Then I started to remind myself of how I tend to think I know everything and shoot my mouth off when in actuality I’m the epitome of “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Well a danger to myself.

Anyway, I decided to look at a few bits of information on reading and listening and ran across this article. It made a lot of sense to me and was very surprising.

In the blog, “Read write Now” the author wrote how reading and listening are two different things. Exactly what I was thinking. But I was thinking, because I’m reading, I would be strengthening my brain and listening to a book would make my mind lazy. Shows you what I know because In the article http://readwritenow.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/reading-listening-and-memory/  it makes a case for how listening to a story or conversation strengthens your memory. Here is an excerpt from the article.

At least this would be the case if the culture that’s developing is one that would put a high premium on listening skills. …………………….. It would be interesting to figure out if people who listen to audiobooks in a regular and devoted fashion show more highly development memory capacity–either short or long term–than those of us who spend more time reading.”

This paragraph hit me right in my docent head. While giving tours of the first floor of the museum I talk about how important it was for the Alii (High Chiefs) to be able to prove their genealogy. The Hawaiians were  an oral culture. Children that displayed good memories were set apart and were taught to develop those memory skills. As adults they could listen to a long and involved chant once and then repeat it verbatim.  With this skill they could quote long genealogies that would prove which line particular chiefs came from when a new chief was born.

I read another article that concluded from an experiment with readers and listeners that ”

“Listeners recall more main ideas or do better at main idea questions, while readers recall more details or did better at detail questions.” http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472034598-myth1.pdf

 

So what does all this mean to me? Well, I do know my listening skills are bad and I do have a very bad short-term memory. But, I don’t know if this answered my question as to is listening to a book the same as reading it. I do know this though,……

photo… Cadie not only needs a pair of glasses to read but I will now have to get her a pair of earphone too.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I must be getting very old. Not because I just had a birthday. Yes, there is no rest for the wicked as I continually have birthdays. I’m getting old because I am actually beginning to enjoy giving tours to the little kids. They have warn me down. They have won me over and I actually prefer them now to giving the adult tours. It must have been that group hug that I got from all of the kids in  a past tour. I actually felt energized after that.

I’ve come a long way since the time when I was giving a tour to pre-schoolers. I was talking about the Lei made of human hair and a whale’s tooth only to look down and see all of the kids were watching their friends two floors below and not a one was listening to me. (See photo below)

P1000025  You have to be quite tricky and interesting to compete with Kamohoalii, the shark god who accompanied Pele from Tahiti to Hawaii.

  I have found that it is much more of a challenge and takes quite a bit of studying to find information that will keep their attention. Last week I did a tour for a Hawaiian Immersion school. Normally they are done by Hawaiian speaking guides but scheduling did not allow for that.

Not having enough time that week to learn Hawaiian I hoped that they would forgive me when I told them that my grandson also went to a Hawaiian Immersion School here on Oahu. They were visiting from the outer islands. The teacher said with a big smile, maikaʻi (good, great, fine, etc.) So I felt I was on firmer ground.

DSCN1415Kahili just to the left of the feathered cape

Going into our Kahili room where we have the portraits of the Alii from King Kamehameha to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, the children started calling out the names of each alii and their accomplishments. I was left with my mouth open. What were they saying? Did I dare try to add to it? They were giving me the tour.

Turning to the teacher I asked, do you want me to explain about the Kahili? He smiled and said they already knew all that. I was so disappointed as they already knew all about the little prince, Albert Edward, who was my favorite to talk about, I couldn’t even tell them how the Kahili were put together. What a disappointing tour guide I was turning out to be. I grasped at one last tidbit of trivia.

“Do they know about his Kahili?” I asked hopefully. No they donʻt. Happily I took them over to the feather standard shaped like a flower bud and went on to explain how  Prince Albert’s mother, Queen Emma,  had commissioned it to signify the child died like a flower that never had a chance to bloom.

As we left the room I wondered how many more rabbits could I pull out of my hat. When we were almost done with the tour and after not being able to really tell them anything new the last place I took them to was the replica that we have of the first heiau ever built in Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is called Wahaʻula.

The first Heiau built in Hawaii in the 13 century in Puna Hawaii

The first Heiau built in Hawaii in the 13 century in Puna Hawaii, Wahaʻula

The kids gathered around the  Heiau and I started to talk when all of a sudden the teacher speaking in Hawaiian talked to the kids for well over a minute. I asked him, fully expecting it, if he had just told them about Wahaʻula. To my surprise he said “I told them to pay attention to what you were saying.” I breathed a sigh and went on.

I was proud of the kids even though they didnʻt need me along. They were well versed in their culture. They knew their roots. Like Charles Bishop had intended these children were coming to the museum with a full knowledge of their ancestors and seeing first hand what their kupuna  (elders) had accomplished.

Maikaʻi

 

 

Niihau Shell Lei, a Little Bit of This and That

 

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From the small little island of Niihau, 18 miles long and 3-6 miles wide, comes the small little shell, columbella varians sowerly, or more commonly known as the Niihau shell. How small you ask? Well in the above photo of a lei made from a variety of this shell you can count 7,000 of them!

And like the shell, Niihau is small but unique. Niihau was purchased in 1864 from King Kamehameha the IV for $10,000. Imagine owning your own little island at that price today. The Sinclair family bought it to start-up ranching. The native Hawaiians lived and worked there but no other people were allowed to visit or take up residence. It became known as the Forbidden Island. Through the years the island came into the hands of two brothers, the Robinson’s, who were descendents of the Sinclair’s.

The island being isolated for many years meant that the Hawaiian language and culture were in many ways preserved. The Hawaiians were employed by the Robinson’s and provided with places to live.

I had heard people say how there were no modern conveniences and that the only entertainment they had was a radio. I’m not sure how they lived as I never met anyone who had managed to get on to the island. Only friends or relatives of the residents there could visit. But in my research I was fascinated to find that their was a school for the kids that was supported totally with solar power that allowed the children to use computers. Now that seems modern to me.

Alas in 1999 the family had to shut down the ranching. That left residence with very little employment. Now there is said to be maybe 70 Hawaiians living there and during the summer when they go to visit relatives on nearby Kauai, there are as little as 30 left on the island.

The Niihau shell lei which can sell for more than $10,000 is considered now to be the prime source of earning an income on the island. Unfortunately with all of the people moving away there are very few left to collect these microscopic shells. This means that there are very few people who are carrying on the art of making the lei and there are few skilled artisans to make and pass on the craft.

Once a piece of art that you could buy for five dollars on the street may become a thing of the past. But for now the leis are still available and still quite popular. Here are some photos from the current exhibit at Bishop Museum. I’ve also included some sites where I have gotten some of my information from. You can check them out at the end of the photos.

 

 

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Niihau shell drapes.  From the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It would have been used to decorate a doorway or display over a mantle.

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http://www.islandbreath.org/2005Year/a05-19-farming/0519-03robinsonlegacy.html

http://niihauheritage.org/niihau_today.htm

http://www.niihauheritage.org/niihau_history.htm

LEAVING HOME TO GO TO THE HOME OF THE MERRIE MONARCH Part II

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The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, a fascination destination for me, was celebrating its 50th year of competition.

I tried to envision the old gym it was held in. Open sides I was told and very cold in the evening. In my mind’s eye I could see the portable benches going up the sides of the building, the smell of old wood and everyone sitting where ever they could in a first come first serve seating.

 

And now here I was and I was pleasantly surprised. My son dropped me off in the front while he drove around looking for parking. Parking was at a premium to say the least. I stood in the front lot looking at all the peopled dressed in various stages of casual to beautiful full dressed Polynesian. Muʻu muʻu and hand-made lau hala hats with huge flowers pinned in the hair.

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From a distance I saw this man dressed in Hawaiian costume talking on a cell phone. I thought he was just a sort of welcoming committee. But later inside he was to proceed Princess Kawananakoa, A distant decedent of King Kalakaua, as she was ceremoniously guided to her seat.

Now if there are any of you out there who would know what the proper name for his position is I would be very happy if you could fill me in.

IMG_1147This is what I saw as I entered what I had imagined to be a little basketball gym.

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We sat right behind these people and had the best view of the stage even though it was a side view

 

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You are looking at about three-fourths of the audience.

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King Kalakaua. He was known as the Merrie Monarch. He was responsible for bringing back the Hula. During his reign he defied the missionaries who had banned the dancing and at all his events he would have halaus perform. Thus the name of the competition.

IMG_1156With all her leis, she is one of the judges.

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This is the Kahiko competition. Kahiko is the ancient style of hula. It is danced to the sound of drums and chanting. There is no music or singing. My camera was heavy as I carried it that night but I was so excited to be able to at last have a zoom lens and capabilities to get shots without blur. Unfortunately I also became a critic and kept waiting for the right shot instead of just firing away.The only got this shot of these men.

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This young girl proceeded her halau with what is called a hoʻokupu or gift or offering. I’m not sure who or where she took it to as I could not see once she got off the stage.

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Here the dancers are getting ready to enter on to the stage. The seated woman is their kumu or teacher. She will do the chanting and the playing of the ipu or gourd.

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This particular style of dressing was not what I thought was indicative of the kahiko. Since we were unable to get a program, as they were all sold out, I was not sure what they were performing. Even though I had read as much news on this particular competition I never read that the kahiko might be from a later period of time. When I think of Kahiko I think of pre-contact or Captain Cook’s time when drawings and written accounts were first made available of Hawaiian dancing. I know they never dressed like this.

I was a bit disappointed and again I chose to wait to do more photographing once the more traditional dancers came on. Boy was I in for a surprise. As the break between each performance came on I was trying to line shots up as I looked at the stage and audience with my camera. As I held my camera up to my eye an usher came up to me and said “excuse me, you can not use DSL’s to photograph this event unless you have a special pass.”

What? Why not I asked as I looked around at all the cameras going off. He told me I could use my camera phone or point and shoot. And what was I going to do with my cell phone? I looked at my son and all the people in front of me who had turned around and seemed to be as perplexed as me.

There was a time when this competition had almost failed because it just was not catching on. And now that it is world renown and they are selling shirts, books, and what have you they don’t want you to take a good photo as they (I think) are afraid you might sell it and make some money? Of course this may not be true but this is exactly what I felt.

So my son turned to me with my old Nikon point and shoot and said to me. “Good thing I brought it yeah?” He was laughing but he was mad. I was not laughing and wanted to leave. At last I calmed myself down and put my heavy, no use to me camera away and turned on the point and shoot.

So in part three I will continue with blurry photos and not as close up shots as I would like. Seems like old times doesn’t it?