Friday, August 7, 2009

Make A Joyful Noise - Continued

I'm sorry, didn't realize that it has been a while since I posted. Life gets in the way sometimes.

The word hula, the act of which is depicted in the painting below, literally translates as “dance.” As it is in so many other cultures, the hula was a religious ritual. Another translation of the word hula that I have read is…”a gift.” A gift to the gods in thanks for a reward of nourishment, both spiritual and physical. It is in the motions of the dancer that the offering was made. In other words, the hula was a way to communicate with the gods. The language of motion was not only sacred, but conveyed political, personal and profound views as well. As the word and concept evolved, the primary purpose of the hula remained the same…a means of communication. As a student of the hula, I was taught that the motions of the hula told a story. The story being told in the mele (song) which accompanied the dance. Sadly, the significance and importance of the hula degenerated into merely a form of entertainment for the tourist. In the past few years; however, a renaissance of the culture erupted into hundreds of hula halau (dance schools) being formed, not only in Hawai’i but in foreign lands as well. In the halau the kumu hula (dance teacher) teach the dance, culture and history of the Hawaiians/Polynesians to hundreds of eager students of varying ethnic backgrounds.

Taking an excerpt from an article written by Larry V. LeDoux for “Hawai’i” magazine.
“In the same way, mele (song) is both poetry and prayer – and often educational primer. In mele, language is essential. An old Hawaiian proverb states that, “In the word there is life. In the word there is death.” Words lend themselves to healing. Words lend themselves to destruction. This recognition of the power of language was and is vital to the Hawaiian artist, be he poet, priest or composer.

The mele had a significance to the Hawaiians which we – as members of a print-oriented culture – can never fully appreciate. In a culture with only an oral tradition, the olelo, or spoken word, holds a central place not only in communication but also in the transmission of culture. It was through chants that Hawaiians learned how to behave, how to plant, grow or harvest, fish or fight, build canoes or beat tapa, revere their elders, leaders and gods. Only through the chant could they learn how to mourn death, celebrate life, survive – and teach their youth as they had learned.”

What Mr. LeDoux does not mention here is a very important fact. It was also through chants that the genealogies of Hawaiian Ohana (family) were maintained. Each family had a primary person who was entrusted with the family genealogy, which was passed from one generation to another. Due to the fact that this was a culture with only an oral tradition, the importance of choosing the right person for this responsibility was paramount.

“Make A Joyful Noise”
Overall diptych: 31x24
Oil on stretched canvas

With this painting I am trying to bring the above explanation to the viewer. The olelo (spoken word) or mele (song) of the chanters, along with the movements and motions of the dancers, raise praises to the Almighty…always to His glory.

I’ve learned a lot doing this diptych. Firstly and most important is to make sure you have both sides ready for paint, (e.g. both sketched in) and that you have enough paint mixed, and making sure your values are correspondingly the same. As you can see in the above, I will have to make some adjustments. The story behind this painting is in the first post here.

Thanks for looking and your comments are most appreciated.


  1. "I ka 'ōlelo nō ke ola, i ka ʻōlelo nō ka make." That's the quote about the power of the spoken word. I think it also has to do with creating: You can speak words of truth, honesty & love and will therefore produce results of life, of "ola." But if you speak words of hatred, greed & judgement then you create an outcome of death, of "make." Each person makes a conscious decision to bring forth life or death through their words.

  2. Thank you for that additional information MuzikGirl, and also for taking a look.

  3. Lokelani,Thank you for posting this, I really enjoy reading all about this culture and you are expressing this on canvas so well, keep it up

  4. Loke, this is truly wonderful. What you are doing here is not only to share your beautiful artwork but you are educating people who want to know more about your culture and many of those who have lost much of the meaning of their own Hawaiian traditions. In my view, you are providing a very special service not only to the Hawaiian people but to mankind. Imagine so many of those who visit the islands can be enriched by understanding what is behind the music and dance. Really lovely.