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Chanters at palace lament statehood


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POSTED: Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thirteen chanters performed about an hour of Hawaiian oli, or chants, at Iolani Palace yesterday in tribute to Queen Liliuokalani — a protest of Hawaii's 50th anniversary of statehood.

They chanted about the queen's glory, her loss and a desire to reclaim what Hawaiians lost. While they hold different views of Hawaiian sovereignty, they all support Hawaiian independence, said Manu Kaiama, the protest organizer.

More than 100 people listened to the oli — some lamenting, others defiant — by the performers, who were dressed mostly in black on the steps and lanai of the palace.

“;Even though people don't realize it, we, of course, believe statehood was based upon the illegal overthrow of our queen,”; Kaiama said. The event's purpose was to remind people that a wrong needs to be corrected, she said.

“;The best way to take opposition is to do something celebratory and enriching,”; said Judy Talaugon, an American Indian attending the event who also opposed statehood.

The oli were selected from Hawaiian newspapers, books and family genealogies, and chanters applied their own melodies. They practiced for six months, said Kaiama, who is also a University of Hawaii business professor.

“;At times, more subdued protests such as this one can be more powerful,”; said Makainai Mehana, 26, daughter of Kaiama. “;Oli is a part of our culture.”;

Another attendee was Lynette Cruz, who organized a protest at the Hawai'i Convention Center earlier in the day.

Hawaiians need to gather to celebrate their history and culture, and the solemn palace protest was a proper setting, she said. She said it contrasted the earlier political protest, where a lot of rage was released.

“;The focus needs to be put back on the culture,”; said Mana Caceres, 33, a musician and salesman. “;It brings it almost right back to the scene of the crime for me. It brings it almost full circle.”;