Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, March 16, 1999

Native voices
finally heard

By Cynthia Oi


A group of Hawaiian writers and artists will feel a thrill when a new journal makes its official debut this week.

'Oiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal is the first to be written and staffed completely by Hawaiians.

"There has never been a literary journal of any kind by native Hawaiians," said Lisa Kanae, one of the 'Oiwi contributors. "We want to provide a space for writers and artists who are native Hawaiian, as well as being able to print the history of native Hawaiians."

The journal, an annual publication with a first run of 2,000, is a collection of essays, poetry, stories, art and photographs. Contributors include Kapulani Landgraf, Imaikalani Kalahele, Manu Aluli Meyer, William Kamana'olana Mills, Anthony Kalaemaka Kekona Jr. and Haunani-Kay Trask. There also are reprints of articles that appeared in Ke Aloha Aina, one of the dozens of Hawaiian-language newspapers that were published in the 19th century.

Editor is D. Mahealani Dudoit, a doctoral candidate in literature at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In the journal's editors' notes -- actually a discussion among contributors -- Dudoit says two key words were foremost in her mind when she conceived of 'Oiwi: genealogy because it is important to see "how we today are part of the genealogy of Hawaiian people and culture;" kuleana because it "means both 'privilege' and 'responsibility'."

"A lot of passionate things and knowledge need to be put down," she said in an interview. "There was a great hunger."

Kanae said being Hawaiian isn't the only qualification for journal publication. There is a process to screen material and those on the editorial panel have literary and artistic credentials.

Dudoit has written and published extensively and in 1989 received the Ernest Hemingway Memorial Award for Poetry from UH.

"Even the three editorial assistants (herself included) are graduate students at the university," Kanae said.

The journal stresses that it welcomes diversity of views and opinions. Although some of the pieces are written in Hawaiian, the use of that language isn't exclusive.

In the editors' notes, Ku'ualoha Meyer Ho'omanawanui says expressions of thoughts and feelings are important "in Hawaiian, in English, in pidgin, in whatever our mode."

She adds: "And we don't share one thought."

Some have criticized Hawaiian groups because they disagree, she says.

"How come it's okay for haoles to have different opinions? Isn't that called 'democracy?' But when Hawaiians have diverse opinions, all of a sudden we can't get along, what's wrong with us?"

Says Dudoit, "All knowledge is not kept in one house or place of learning."

That approach extends to the use of the Hawaiian language in the journal. Grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and translation, often in dispute, are left to each contributor because they "are seriously considered choices arising from different philosophies regarding language -- its place in our lives; its power and its inadequacies in representing the oral; its ability and limitations in capturing thought and feeling."

The journal has been financed by grants, pro bono contributions and in part by Dudoit personally, Kanae said. The staff is looking to the business community and other private resources as the journal continues, she said.

"Hawaii has such a small literary community and it wasn't that there were native Hawaiians who weren't getting published," she said. "At the same time, there wasn't anything they could call their own."

There is now, Dudoit said. "We went for our dream and we reached it."


Bullet Celebration of the birth of 'Oiwi
Bullet When and Where: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Native Books & Beautiful Things, Ward Warehouse; 5:30 to 9 p.m. April 1, Halau o Haumea, Center for Hawaiian studies, UH Manoa
Bullet Readings: 3 p.m. April 24, Barnes & Noble, Kahala Mall; 1 p.m. May 1, Borders, Ward Centre; noon May 8, Borders, Waikele
Bullet Call: 988-0594

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