Blog | ʻIlima Luning: Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima Greeting Hōkūle‘a in Sydney
- Posted on 27 May 2015
- In Crew Blogs
The dancers of Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima were excited to greet Hōkūle‘a and her crew with traditional Hawaiian chants and dances to commemorate her historic first visit to Sydney Harbour. Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima is a school of traditional Hawaiian dance led by Kumu Māpuana de Silva. When the hālau was asked to perform at the welcoming ceremony, we jumped at the opportunity, not only because of the long history of supporting the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), but because of our connection with the navigator on this voyage, Kaleomanuiwa Wong, who has been a part of our hula community for many years.
When we accepted the invitation, none of us could have foreseen how fortuitous it would be for us to be in Sydney not only on a personal level, but in our capacity representatives of Hawai‘i and the Hōkūle‘a crew in their absence.
The canoe, which was set to arrive on Friday, May 15, was delayed due to severe weather. The crew was forced to land in Coffs Harbour where they waited for the storm to pass before they could safely sail on to Sydney Harbour. Although the crew could not be with us, many of the events planned in honor of their arrival were still held with representatives of PVS Maya, Randy, and Jamie who flew in to greet the canoe, able to speak on their behalf and with Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima able to engage in cultural exchanges through hula performances traditional chanting protocols.
Experience at Government House for Governor’s Dinner event.
On Friday, May 15, a formal welcoming event was held at the Government House where the Governor of New South Wales, General David Hurley, was set to greet the Hōkūle‘a crew after their arrival which was intended for earlier that day. Although the wa’a was delayed by a storm and forced to wait it out in Coffs Harbour, Bruce Blankenfeld was able to join us through Skype to say a few words on behalf of the crew. Bruce and the crew were able to listen to the speeches delivered by the Governor and the US ambassador and watch the hālau preform in the beautiful Government House.
After the speeches, Maya, Randy, and Jamie presented the Governor and his wife with gifts, a piece of Hōkūle‘a’s sail sewn into a wall-hanging and a section of its ‘iako. Following the gift giving, the hālau performed hula throughout the night. To see hula being performed in this ornately decorated, palace-like home, and to hear beautiful Hawaiian music filling its rooms and halls was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. I overheard several guests acknowledge how incredible the experience was and how lucky they felt to be part of such a unique event.
Our original plans to join the Hōkūle‘a crew in their community events were altered when the canoe was delayed. However, Maya and the PVS team were able to coordinate plans to join the indigenous high school students from Australia and Hawai‘i, who were here on scholarship to engage in a first nation cross-cultural exchange, in their scheduled cultural activities. Our first visit was to Bondi, a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful stretch of beach. On the surface, this place looked like a typical beach town with strip of beach-front boutiques, beach stores, and eateries. The area’s cultural heritage could easily have been overlooked if not for our aboriginal guide sharing the stories of the indigenous people who came from this area and their rich history. He walked us along the shoreline and through a residential area, ending in the middle of a golf course where stone carvings could still be found. Along the way he showed us native plants that were used to make fire, food, and medicine. He also shared stories of his personal heritage and explained to us that he shares these stories with us because, for his people, he is the keeper of their stories and he has the responsibility to ensure these stories live on.
Red Fern and their Occupation
On May 17, we were fortunate enough to join the students in their visit to Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy to hear the stories of the aboriginal people from this area and to experience just a small glimpse of their current struggles. We were greeted by Aunty Jenny Munro with a traditional smoking ceremony. In this cleansing ceremony we were asked to circle their sacred fire, which burned with leaves from the gum tree, and to breathe in the smoke and waft it around ourselves. Once all of the leaves had burned the ceremony was complete and we sat together to hear Aunty Jenny tell us about the history of their area and their fight for aboriginal rights. It was moving to hear the similarities between their struggles and those that we are facing in Hawai‘i. When I spoke with one of the dancers after, she said that after listening to their stories she wanted to know what she could do to help.
These cultural exchanges and experiences united the people present in more than one way and brought together the desire to maintain connections and to support each other in our efforts for our first nation peoples. We ended our visit with chants and hula performed to honor this group and we gave them two kahili named Poliahu and Lilinoe which were made by Kuahiwi Lorenzo.
These cultural exchanges were incredibly powerful and inspiring. We were so grateful to Maya, Randy, and Jamie for making these opportunities possible. We would not have been able to engage in these activities or meet these amazing people if not for their last minute planning abilities, coordination, and organization.