What Exactly is ‘Hawaiiana’?

I was sitting in on a local school’s briefing on programs it hopes to fund for the coming years and one item was, “classes with more emphasis on Hawaiiana.”

First, I’ve never been a fan of that word “Hawaiiana.” Wikipedia says it’s “a popular term of academia used in reference to history and various aspects of the culture of Hawaii. The term was coined in 1948 by Hawaiian entertainer and cultural expert Nona Beamer.”


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The Hula Show

We don’t study “Iowana” or “Floridiana” in school, so why “Hawaiiana”? Aren’t the 50 states’ native cultures and politics adequately covered in U.S. history and social studies?

And what is it, precisely? Taro growing, lauhala weaving, canoe building? Things relevant for jobs in this century?

Then along came a piece of mail and an old album cover that even further piqued my curiosity.

The mail was a flier (pictured here) from kumu hula Patrick Makuakane promoting his benefit show in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theatre this week.

What manner of hula? “Dances inspired by 100 years of Hawaiian-language newspapers.”

Is that acceptable Hawaiiana? Probably not to the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Then the album cover (also pictured here) for Hawaiiana Melodie, a collection of “music made in Berlin.” Caterina Valente showing us her Hawaiiana moves!

I hope my point is made. What is “Hawaiiana”?

I’m sure MidWeek readers will offer plenty of answers.

Yes, I get email from readers and I answer most. Not this one (until now) from “Luigi13” because I think he’s way off base and behind the times. But you judge:

“I am so sick and tired of all this political correctness b—s—. It has weakened our military significantly. We used to go to the Officers’ Club or NCO Club stag bar on Friday afternoons to drink, smoke and swap lies with our comrades.

“What happened? Drinking became frowned on. Smoking caused cancer. Stag bars became sexist. Gradually, our men quit patronizing their clubs because what happened in the club became fodder for a performance report.

“It was the same thing at the Airman’s Club and the NCO and/or Top 3 clubs. Now we don’t have separate clubs for the ranks. Instead we have something called All Ranks Clubs or community clubs. They’re open to men and women of all ranks – from airman basic to general officer. No one’s in them. I wonder why?”

Well, easy answer, Luigi. Boozing at lunch and happy hour is bad news. Stag nights should have been ended decades ago. The enlisted club at Camp Long, Korea, used to show porno flicks on the wall screens during meals.

What’s happened, Luigi, is that our military has grown up.