Moloka`i: Birthplace of Hula

Each year, we can hardly wait for the Ka Hula Piko festival on Moloka`i. This celebration commemorates the birth of hula at the sacred site Pu`u Nana. According to Hawai`ian history, the goddess Laka first danced the hula here; then traveled to the other islands teaching her graceful dance.

Hula is performed as a cultural sharing, a gift, and a prayer in this free outdoor festival. Begun by the late Kumu Hula, John Kaimikaua, the tradition is carried on by his Halau Kukuna O Ka La. Halau (hula schools or groups) from other islands join them and  our Moloka`i halau to educate and entertain. It is definitely what we call a “chicken skin” experience to watch these dancers. Here are just a few photos of the all day ho`olaulea. All I can say is, so lucky we live (or for some,  get to visit) Moloka`i.

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You Speak Pidgin? Bettah Learn!


Our first trip into the town of Kaunakakai was like going back in time. The wooden storefronts along the single main street looked like a throwback to the 1940’s. Relaxed and charming. After a brief tour (moments really), we headed on to a local auto repair shop to check on Rik’s old Toyota Land Cruiser.

We pulled up to Oshiro’s garage, where  cars in various states of repair were strewn across pavement.

“Mr. Oshiro!” Rik called to a worker bent over a radiator. “I’d like you to meet my friends, Dewitt and Lynette.”

A diminutive Japanese man, who looked to be ninety if he was a day,  stomped up to me, a frown creasing his already furrowed brow.

“You speak pidgin?” he demanded.

“Uh, no.” I replied, nonplussed.

“Bettah learn!” he spat and stomped back to his work.

Right! Bettah learn. I was visiting a new culture and it was going to be my job to observe and learn. Mr. Oshiro was determined that I understand that from the get go.

Pidgin is a language in its own right, distinct from Hawai`ian. It developed when so many cultures mixed during the plantation days and everyone needed a common language. Hence, pidgin has English, Hawai`ian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and more combined in a sort of hybrid tongue.

These days, there are books and stories published in pidgin. There are plays written and performed in this composite language. And likely, if you spend any time in Hawai`i, you will hear it spoken informally as well.

So do I speak pidgin? Not like a native, but I try. Thanks to Mr. Oshiro, I listened and I learned.

For more about pidgin, check out Wikipedia and these books on Amazon: Pidgin To Da Max and Da Kine Dictionary.

Lei Hali`a: Flowers of Memory

Lei Hali`a © lynette sheppard

Lei Hali`a © lynette sheppard

I think of each remembered Moloka`i moment as a pua, a flower. These snapshots of Moloka`i life and lore are strung together in my heart to form a perfect lei. Like a lei, there is no specific beginning or end. It is a circle of memories. They exist in Moloka`i time; non-linear, connected, and precious –  like  flowers in a lei.

This blog is not a travelogue nor a history lesson nor even a treatise on culture. It is a collection of personal experiences and observations  resulting from my love affair with the island I am blessed to call my home. Moloka`i nui a Hina. (Moloka`i, Great Child of Hina, Goddess of the Moon.)