(Waipā from Ma ka ihu Wa’a)
Aloha e nā kupuna o keia ‘āina
He ‘āina nui I ka mano wai e
E ho’owaiwai I ka mana ‘o pono
Ka pono no nā mea ulu o uka me kai
Hō mai I ke Aloha
Hō mai I ka Mahalo
A e komo ho’I au ma loko nei
A he leo… A he leo wale no e!
Everyday at Waipā, at the beginning, or at lunch, or a venture into the woods, we all gather in a circle, hold hands, and say an Oli. An Oli, in a western sense, is a chant. A better way to understand an Oli is as a song like way to respect and appreciate the spirits of the ancestors who previously resided on Kauai, and celebrate the sacredness and beauty of the water, mountains, and land. Olis are a way of preserving information for posterity to come; as communities urbanize they now play an important role in helping younger generations connect and understand their homeland.
Hawaii’s recent history of colonization is still reverberating through communities, and signs of inter-generational trauma and racial tensions between the tourists, locals and natives can be felt in day-to-day life. Although, colonization is not being carried out in the ‘classic’ way, it has manifested into something else—land and housing prices.
Studies conducted by Zillow show that the median home value in Kauai is $530,300 and the current median listing price is $750,000. While, the median household income (implying two people are making money for a family of four) is $62,946 (zillow.com). This makes living and maintaining a home in Kauai difficult, and having property with land even more challenging. Fortunately, places like Waipā have been granted land by the Kamehameha Schools to preserve cultural practices and values on the āina (land), with a focus of community outreach.
Waipā’s mission is to be a place where “folks can connect with the ‘aina (that which feeds us – the land and resources) and learn about our local values and lifestyle through laulima (many hands working together)”. When the Waipā community comes together to say the Oli, one can see their passion and love for their ‘aina and culture. Even as urbanization and gentrification continue to happen across Kauai, and attempt to disconnect natives from their land, there will always be Waipā.
(The next valley over from Waipā)
This week I start working with the keiki (children) at Waipā’s summer program. This program helps children gain a sense of place within the Hawaiian environment and their culture. One of the intentions of Oli is to help the people, or in this case the keiki, be able to articulate the intersectionality of the environment and culture. I am excited to witness the keiki experience this, and develop a passion towards the ‘aina and hear their voices in the Oli. And who knows, maybe at the end of 5 weeks they will be creating their own Oli.
(The horse shed at Waipā)
All photos taken by Lauren Hadley