By Kumu Maile Naehu
In early January, a special performance of The Giving Tree was offered at Kaunakakai School Cafeteria by a talented group of performers from Molokai. This group was comprised of 12 keiki ages 5 to 12 who participated in a Winter Hana Keaka (performing arts) class with me, a mini-camp in collaboration with the Molokai Arts Center (MAC).
The Giving Tree was a rich performance that reflected a four-day class with me carefully studying the art of performance. We explored voice, movement and acting and ended in a small culminating performance. The most amazing part of all this was how the deep underlying lessons held in the story were revealed by the performers in a poetic reflection done at the end of the play.
It was the second production for the Hana Keaka; the first performance was in October, entitled Mama Hina was a compilation of mo`olelo (stories) about Hina, mother of Molokai, told by Hina’s children.
These classes will continue to be offered on school breaks and highlighted with a quarterly performance. Each Hana Keaka performance will share mo`olelo with the Molokai community. By having these youth showcase their performance, they are not only contributing to a closer community but also a community that can learn mo`olelo from their performances. The skill of oral tradition is so vital to keep our people alive. It is my goal to help youth gain a stronger sense of kuleana, through understanding that they must continue to tell stories.
“We are so impressed with the promotion, registration, implementation and performances. Mahalo!” said parent Malia Busby.
Some of my favorites teaching strategies are founded in native intelligence and traditional learning. Moenaha, Na Honua Maoli Ola, Nana I ke Kumu and tribes are my constant influences in curriculum planning. I emphasize the great importance in holding on to traditions but understanding that our language and culture are living and always growing. I practice composing original pieces and script — a reflection of my philosophy that we must continue to tell old and new mo`olelo, oli, hula and mele. I also believe that it is crucial these youth can carefully balance the two worlds. I always integrate the practice of voice through enunciation, volume, and expression in both English and `Olelo Hawaii. Our kupuna were incredibly well-versed in both English and Hawaiian and were one of the most literate nations on the globe. Therefore performances allow for these Keiki to strengthen their speaking and listening skills which are both essential building blocks of literacy.
Any students between the ages of 5 and 12 interested in growing as a performer are welcomed to join me at the next Hana Keaka Mini-camp. I also offer after school classes for Middle School Students through the UPLINK program (visual arts). In January and February, I will be teaching Slam Poetry workshops free through the Hana Hou program at Molokai High School.
Molokai’s talent is overflowing and simply needs more venues to showcase the hidden talents held within our youth. I look forward to nurturing these dreams and helping them reach full potential.