Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ples Tumbuna Long Waimea Na North Shore

Taking the trip to the North Shore of O`ahu after the Palm Sunday service was such a joy. The trip was planned the night before as John, Hala, and myself sat around the Friendship Circle at the East West Center. We just decided that it might help to put things into perspective for us to drive out of Honolulu and Waikiki, a touristic metropolitant space that overshadows the beautiful Hawaiian Island of O`ahu. There’s more one could see in O`ahu than Waikiki or the modern skyscrapers of Honolulu.

Our trip to the North Shore began on the afternoon of Palm Sunday. My wantoks John Sopa, Alfred M. Riibako (Hala) and Ishmael Togamae are from the Solomon Islands. John and Ishmael have their own cars. John is studying at the Kapiolani Community College, Ishmael is a medical doctor at a hospital in Hawaii, and Hala is completing his degree in computer science at the University of Hawaii. Our other wantok, Muguwa Dilu, from PNG decided to opt out of our trip.

We began our trip without any expectations. As soon as we drove out of Honolulu and into the mountains it began to rain. The rain was a welcoming shower for us from the gods of the land. We continued with our journey driving through pineapple farms until we descend into Haleiwa. This was farm country with the rich soil that agriculturalists made good in farming, from small plots to grand scale farming.

To reach Waimea Bay we took the Kamehameha Highway. The bay is on the north, west side of the highway (at the entrance point). We drove on until we arrived at the Wamea Valley Park. Waimea Bay is located in Haleiwa on the North Shore of O‘ahu in the Hawaiian Islands at the mouth of the Waimea River. Waimea Valley extends behind Waimea Bay. Waimea means "Red Water" in Hawaiian.

In winter, Waimea and other North Shore locations such as Pipeline and Sunset Beach host a number of surfing contests because of the large waves found here. These waves are created by winter storms in the North Pacific, and their arrival on O‘ahu's North Shore are typically forecast accurately several days in advance. In summer, Waimea typically has clear and calm water. But, we were not there for the waves, but to see the place and feel it in our skin.

We walked over to the Hale O Lono or the Hawaiian Temple. This was the first time I have visited a sacred space in Hawaii. The Hale O Lono was constructed in 1470 AD and 1700 AD. The Hale O Lono site was dedicated by the Hawaiians to Lono, one of the four principal gods of ancient Hawaii. The Hawaiian word Hei has many meanings including: to summon, to capture, or to ensnare. All implies a vibration, current, and invisible energy or power. A heiau captures spiritual power (mana). The area was noted as a possible religious site in a 1974 survey by the Bishop Musuem. Excavation, identification, and restoration began by Waimea Valley archaeologist, Rudy Mitchell, in 1985, and the first major phase was completed in 1988. It is one of the most valuable historical sites according to the Hawaiian Historical Society.

I think the visit to the Hale O Lono had a spiritual effect on us. The spiritual power or mana of the sacred place must have rubbed off on us as we left. The heiau of the place must have settled in each one of us, me particularly, because of the strong sense of respect I have for sacred indigenous spaces. As we drove out of the Waimea Valley I could not get it out of my mind. I think the vibration or the energy of the place moved with us as we followed the road back to catch a glimpse of the famous surfing sights of the North Shore.

We drove west from Waimea Bay on along the coast until we hit the dirt road towards the end of the road. Behind is the Wai‘anae Mountain range. We stopped for a short photo session. We had one more stop to make at the only airstrip on North Shore.

It was here that the currents of the ocean brought to the sandy beach a friend. The vibrations of the sea swell on the shore had brought with it a large sea turtle right up to the sandy beach. I was ecstatic with pleasure of seeing a turtle near the beach. I had never seen one so close in its natural environment. In a playful yet serious way the pleasure the turtle gave me made me write on the sand: Save the Turtles. We all gathered near the sea’s edge and felt the vibrations of the Hawaiian world through the appearance of the turtle, which seemed to enjoy the sea vibrations. It was not scared of us or of being caught. It had the playful and songful dance under the vibrations of the sea rolling up to the sandy beach and receding back to the ocean.

This experience was the highlight of this trip. I can never forget it. On the way back I tried to make sense of what I just experienced. I have been teaching about indigenous epistemologies and knowledge systems and what can I say about this? Hawaiian religion is polytheistic, believing in many deities, and is also animistic in that it is based on a belief that spirits are found in non-human beings and objects such as animals, the waves, and the sky.

According to the information provided on Wikipedia: “Hawaiian religion has four prominent deities: Kāne, Kū, Lono and Kanaloa. Other notable deities include Laka, Kihawahine, Haumea, Papahanaumoku, and, most famously, Pele. In addition, each family is considered to have one or more family guardians known as Aaumakua.

“In Hawaiian mythology, the deity Lono is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, and music. In one of the many Hawaiian legends of Lono, he is a fertility and music god who descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry Laka. In agricultural and planting traditions, Lono was identified with rain and food plants. He was one of the four gods (with , Kāne, and his twin brother Kanaloa) who existed before the world was created. Lono was also the god of peace. In his honor, the great annual festival of the Makahiki was held. During this period (from October through February), war and unnecessary work was kapu (forbidden). In Hawaiian weather terminology, the winter Kona storms that bring rain to leeward areas are associated with Lono. Lono brings on the rains and dispenses fertility, and as such was sometimes referred to as Lono-makua (Lono the Provider). Ceremonies went through a monthly and yearly cycle. For 8 months of the year, the luakini was dedicated to Ku-with strict kapus. Four periods (kapu pule) each month required strict ceremonies. Violators could have their property seized by priests or overlord chiefs, or be sentenced to death for serious breaches” (

It was only later when I was uploading the photographs in my apartment that it dawned on me that what I had just experienced with my wantoks was a force of power (mana) that we must recognise as indigenous peoples of Oceania. Our physical world is connected to the spiritual world of our gods and ancestors. We sometimes forget this connection in our submission to the demands of modern Western world. As a result we experience all kinds of enslavement, imbalances, unsettling experiences, or difficulties in our lives. As indigenous peoples we need to embrace the vibrations and power produced by the energy given off from the merging of physical, human, animal, and spiritual world of our gods and environment.

This trip has given me a window of opportunity to learn about the spiritual world of Hawaiians and the intricate balance there is between humans, physical world, animal world, and the spiritual world. Peace emanates from that balance.