4 Essential Aspects Of Hawaiian Cultural Life

Hawaii is an archipelago of islands with a rich and fascinating cultural life. Island culture is a unique blend of Polynesian traditions and influences from other parts of the world. Asian, American and Portuguese cultures had a huge impact on the native population of the islands. Here are 4 of the most widely appreciated aspects of Hawaiian culture.

  • Music

Hawaiian music represents the diversity of cultural influences upon island life. Although vocal music was always present in Polynesian culture, the instrument-led music Hawaii is famous for was the result of innovation on the part of the native population when exposed to other cultures. The Ukulele, for instance, is an adaptation of an instrument bought to the archipelago by Portuguese sailors, and the slack tuned guitar was an innovative take on the guitars rancheros bought to the area in the early plantation days. Hawaiian music has a unique fusion style beloved by many. The Hawaiian language is well suited to slack stringed, flowing instrumentation. Many islanders keep the Hawaiian language alive through the writing and performance of musical pieces.

  • Surfing

The Hawaiian Islands are famous for surfing. Many keen surfers stay at Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Maui in order to catch a wave off the coast of the valley Island. Surfing first came to Hawaii thanks to ancient Polynesian settlers, and was developed into a modern sport during the early 20th Century. Pioneers such as Duke Paoa Kahanamoku took surfing to new levels and introduced an element of competition. Surfing competitions on Maui and Oahu draw vast crowds and are the sporting pride of the Polynesian state. 

  • Dance

Hula dancing is the most commonly practiced Hawaiian dance style and is immensely significant in Hawaiian culture. The hula is a form of interpretive dance that aims to illustrate the contents of an oli, or chant. Through this interpretation, Hawaiians can tell and retell the stories of their ancestors and the myths that surround them. Hula is a political action – it speaks to the cultural resilience of native populations. In the Western media, hula was somewhat warped into a sexual or overtly exotic dance, when it is in fact a practice associated with remembrance and celebration.

  • Tattooing

Tattooing is incredibly culturally significant across the Pacific world. Native islanders from many of the pacific archipelagos still practice hand poked tattooing as their ancestors once did. Traditional Hawaiian tattooing is known as Kakau. The oldest forms of Kakau were etched into the skin with a bone knife and pigment. These days, the style is usually achieved using a needle – although not usually a tattoo gun.

Kakau tattoos have several fascinating meanings. They can represent an honoring of the gods, war hula or an honoring of one’s ancestors. They take the form of a series of overlapping symbols and lines. The hand poking process uses ash and is known to be extremely painful – ensuring that tattoos were seen as a right of passage by some Hawaiians in times gone by.

Krissy Georgiadis

Written by Krissy Georgiadis

Law graduate and wanderlust sufferer. I like rum and beaches.