Hawai`i & LooChoo Reflect Each Other in Ceremony & Protocol

ahuula1.jpgHawaii and Okinawa’s regal past have so much in common.The pageantry, ceremony and protocols were very similar, especially since both cultures connected events to their ancestors, and the importance of honoring them through the chants and prayers. In Hawai`i, it was a way to pass on the traditions connected with the ancestors, as well as preserve the identity of the people. On Sturday, February 9th, at Queen Emma’s peaceful summer residence of Hanaikamalama, the pre-Cook era feather cloak of Kamehameha IV, was returned to its rightful place in the palace. Made of thousands of O’o, Mamo, and I`iwi feathers, the red and yellow cloak dates back to pre- Captain Cook era. Each feather was tied meticulously to the fine woven olona fiber net backing. Kumu Hula Kaha`i Topolinski, renowned Hawaiian historian, and hula master, led the ceremony. Steeped in ancient protocol and pageantry, Kumu Kaha`i and his halau, Ka Pa Hula Hawai`i, have been the leading practitioners of Hawaiian traditions and protocol. Chants recalling the geneology of Kamehameha began, as the cloak was brought out in procession, flanked by the long warrior spears, kapu sticks, and followed by the regalia of Royal Orders. The sights and sounds brought everyone back in time to when the ali`i, or royalty were actually there. This was not a commercial pageant or ceremony. Far from the productions of Aloha Week style, this was the real thing. For myself, I felt an honor to have been able to be a part of this event and to have served the ali`i this way. It made me think of how it must have been in Okinawa during the kingdom era. Unfortunately, for our Okinawan heritage, the real respect, pageantry, ceremonies and protocols are just about extinct. Most have forgotten and the closest you see is during the Shuri Festival in late October. However, in having spoken to a few older nuru, or priestesses while in Okinawa, they have some protocol and ceremonies that they can remember and practice. Their honor to the king is still carried on in prayers and songs. They say that if you look at the Shuri Festival procession, you can still see some of the protocol, but now mostly its very commercial, and lacks real respect for the spirit of the past kings and queens. They explained to me how closely connected events were to the ancestors, and how ceremonies were important to remind them to give thanks, honor the past, and pray for the people and islands as a whole. For me, being able to see the Hawaiian ceremony and events makes me understand deeper how our own Okinawan past must have been. Trying to piece together what little is left in Okinawa, and what we still have here in Hawai`i is showing a stronger connection to the two cultures. This is why I think it is so important to understand one’s identity. Realizing and understanding of cultures is essential in having respect, and also brings pride to one’s own cultural heritage. Something that we should never forget.

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