Bringing life to Ohana Day


POSTED: Sunday, February 15, 2009

At an Ohana (Family) Day celebration last year featuring the nonprofit Waipa Project, Chris Faye noticed a 9-year-old boy pounding corm after corm of steaming taro.






The Next Ohana Day

        » Where: Kauai Museum, 4428 Rice St., Lihue, Kauai

» When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 7; the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


» Admission: Free, with nominal fees for some activities


» Information: Telephone, 245-6931; e-mail, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); Web site, www.kauaimuseum.org




The Year's Schedule

        Here are the Ohana Day themes for the rest of the year:

» April 4: Hawaii's South Pacific neighbors take center stage. On display will be Tahitian shell leis, tapa and other items from the museum's collection.


» May 2: May Day is Lei Day! Don't miss the lei making, lei auction and lei contest. There also will be entertainment, crafts, food and other diversions.


» June 6: The spotlight shines on the Puerto Ricans who began arriving in Hawaii in 1900. Tap your feet to lively kachi kachi music, and view exhibits on coffee.


» July 11: Learn about Obon, the festival during which Japanese Buddhists honor their ancestors. Participate in the rhythmic dance and peruse the kimono and “;Gokurosama: Portraits of Hawaii's Nisei”; (second generation; children of Japanese immigrants) exhibits.


» Aug. 1: About 7,000 Koreans came to Hawaii between 1903 and 1905. Although they were Hawaii's smallest immigrant group, some of their traditions have been assimilated into local culture—delicious kalbi (marinated ribs) for one! Traditional clothing will be displayed.


» Sept. 5: Thank the Portuguese for bringing malasadas, bean soup, sweet bread and the ukulele to Hawaii! They'll all be a part of this Ohana Day tribute.


» Oct. 3: October marks the start of the makahiki, four months of peace and rest after the harvest season in ancient times. Work and warfare were forbidden, and the people enjoyed feasts and games such as ulu maika (bowling).


» Nov. 7: Georg Scheffer, an agent of the Russian-American Co., built Fort Elisabeth (now known as the Russian Fort) along the Waimea River in 1816 with the help of Kauai's king, Kaumualii. He won the king's support by falsely promising him that the Russian czar would help him break free of Kamehameha's rule.


» Dec. 4: Find beautiful and unique Christmas gifts, all handmade in Hawaii, at this juried craft fair. Also planned are book signings by Kauai authors, a bake sale, a silent auction and live music.


“;The group is restoring the ahupuaa (land division) of Waipa in Hanalei as a sustainable learning center,”; said Faye, curator of the Kauai Museum, which sponsors the monthly event. “;They had set up a large wooden board for people to make poi, and that little boy must've spent two hours there. It was obvious he was enjoying the results of his work.”;

Faye asked who he was, assuming he was related to a Waipa Project member. “;I then discovered he actually was visiting from the mainland and had never eaten poi before!”; she said. “;His family didn't know what they were going to do when they got home since he loved poi so much and they knew they weren't going to be able to find it at their local supermarkets.”;

Hands-on learning is a highlight of Ohana Day, which usually is scheduled on the first Saturday each month. Admission is free, and there's a program of special activities revolving around a cultural or historical theme.

Most of this year's topics focus on the ethnic groups that immigrated to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations from the mid-1800s to early 1900s. Sugar was the backbone of the islands' economy through the middle of the last century.

The theme of the March 7 event is “;Celebrating Hawaiian Culture.”; Planned are a lecture on Kauai's ruling chiefs from 11 a.m. to noon, and music and hula performances from noon to 1 p.m. Hawaiian food will be available for sale, and Kauai's Aloha Festivals royal court will make an appearance.

“;We're focusing on Hawaii in March because Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was born on Kauai on March 26, which is a state holiday,”; Faye said. “;He was a great-grandson of Kaumualii, the last king of Kauai, and he represented Hawaii in Congress for 20 years, from 1902 to 1922.”;

Kauai Museum maintains a permanent exhibit on the prince, which includes a gold pocket watch he gave as to his godson, Jonah Kalanianaole Wise, as a present for his 21st birthday.

“;Our exhibits share the arts, culture and history of Kauai and Niihau in two and three dimensions, but the wealth of the Hawaiian culture can't completely be represented in just those formats,”; Faye said. “;Ohana Day enhances the museum experience. For visitors, it enriches their stay on Kauai, and for local families, it helps bond the different generations.”;

She believes this year's plantation themes are especially apropos in light of the country's current economic woes. “;They'll remind us of the hardships the immigrants endured, adjusting to life in a new land,”; she said. “;They didn't have much, but many of them persevered and went on to become successful business people and leaders in the community.”;

In addition to Ohana Day, Kauai Museum offers guided tours, workshops, lectures, cooking classes, art receptions and outreach programs year-round. Its collections include more than 5,000 photographs of Kauai and Niihau dating back to 1890; more than 1,000 stone implements, tools and games; and 250 original paintings by artists such as Theodore Wores, Madge Tennent and Juliet May Fraser.

It also safeguards marine shells, land snails and bird specimens; feather kahili (standards), leis and capes; wooden tapa beaters, bowls and drums; missionary- and plantation-era clothing and furniture; woven mats and hats; scrimshaw; weapons; and more. Items often are pulled from storage to complement Ohana Day themes.

“;Ohana Day is a time to count our blessings and remember our roots,”; Faye said. “;It brings us together to celebrate life in Hawaii as one big family.”;


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.