'Makawalu' to infuse Ann Arbor with Hawaiian culture, spirit

By Kathleen Davis, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 25, 2013

In a practice that seamlessly intertwines the spiritual, ecological and visually stunning, not many creative outlets are as complex or beautiful as native Hawaiian music and dance. After an elongated planning process, the University is hosting a two-day event to bring indigenous Hawaiian culture to Ann Arbor free to the public.

Makawalu: The Concert


Monday at 7 p.m.
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater
Free


Monday, the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre will host “Makawalu: The Concert,” featuring internationally renowned native Hawaiian artists Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani and Kaumakaiwa Kanakaʻole. The mother-child duo will be making their Ann Arbor debut after several shows on the east coast.

The event is spearheaded by Amy Stillman and Susan Najita, who are both Asian/Pacific Islander Studies Program professors at the University.

“There is, to this day, a core of native Hawaiian knowledge and cultural practices and ways of being that have persisted,” Stillman said. “These two artists are two of the most consummate exemplars of a truly indigenous way of being in the 21st century.”

Kekuhi and Kaumakaiwa’s music style is a showcase of what native Hawaiian artists are about. Featuring dramatic melodies, passionate lyrics and ancient ‘oli chants, Stillman and Najita are confident that the concert will be worth seeing, even for those with little knowledge of Hawaiian culture.

“You are transported into a different reality (during their concerts),” Najita said. “People go to the movies for that.”

Directly translated, “makawalu” means “eight eyes” and encourages people to develop multiple perspectives.

The concert will be followed by a lecture the next morning at 10 in 3512 Haven Hall. The lecture will focus on hula as a global phenomenon and the concurrent spiritual, social, psychological and ecological impacts.

“In this part of the country, there’s still a lot of stereotypes and misperceptions about who native Hawaiians are as people,” Stillman said. “For us to bring to campus two artists that are renowned internationally as 21st century native Hawaiians is extraordinary.”

The events are sponsored by a wide array of programs and individuals within the University.

“(Native Hawaiian culture) speaks to many different potential interlockers,” Najita said. “There’s a literature side of things, an American culture side of things, there’s performance and a gender studies side of things.”

Both Stillman and Najita hope the events educate individuals who may not have much knowledge about Hawaiian culture.

“I’d like to think that there will be a greater awareness and appreciation for indigenous people and indigenous heritages in the United States and locally,” Stillman said. “And more attention to the value of indigenous knowledge to 21st century living.”