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Hawaiian Culture

Hawaii is a place which runs deep with culture and history.  Today, the people of Hawaii strive to keep their ancient traditions alive so that visitors can learn about and appreciate all of the culture they have to offer.

Ukulele Photo

A major part of Hawaiian culture is music.  Hawaiian music combines the sounds of the ancient Islanders who beat drums, blew conch shells, and chanted to their gods. It contains the styles of 19th-century Christian missionaries who taught Islanders to sing in four-part harmony.  The Hawaiians are praised for three contributions to music history; slack-key guitar, steel guitar and the ukulele. The slack key guitar (a tuning effect achieved by loosening the strings) is a favorite in Hawaiian music. The steel guitar is played horizontally with a metal slide.  The ukulele is used in many modern styles and blends of Reggae, Rock and traditional Hawaiian music, as a lead and rhythm instrument. 

Hula Photo

The hula is a customary dance specific to Hawaii.  The Hula has been in existence since ancient times, and is basically a dance which tells a story. In the last decade, interest in hula has grown. Hula competitions are common and hula classes are offered.

Lei Making Image

Crafts are also another important part of Hawaiian culture. Kapa (Tapa cloth) is the art of making cloth from the bark of trees and plants.  The art of quilting has been practiced in Hawaii since the mid-19th century. The first quilting bee took place on April 3,1820. Basic quilting techniques were introduced by missionary women from New England.  The lei, a flower or leaf and bead necklace, is an art form, and is an important part of Maui's history.  A visitor to Maui is often welcomed with a beautiful, colorful lei upon arrival as a gesture of aloha.

Petroglyph Photo

In ancient times, before pen and paper, events or important ideas were recorded by carving them on wood or stone. These are known as petroglyphs.  Hawaiians developed a complicated series of symbols and carved them on rocks. The best petroglyphs are above the little town of Olowalu. Ask at the local store how to find them.

Monument Photo

Hawaiian religion grew out of a deep respect for nature.  The religion, Huna, taught that everything in the world had an opposite. Hawaiians believed that when a person died, his or her soul would go to the "place of night" to be eaten by the gods. They believed that all human souls would be reincarnated so that eventually they might become gods.  The place of worship was called the heiau (temple), where the kahuna was the leader of the ceremonies. Most heiaus were constructed with stone foundations and were built of straw or wood. Human sacrifices were made at certain temples but most were simply places of idol worship. Queen Ka'ahumanu ordered the destruction of the heiau and all religious idols. The Hawaiian people were left with the Christian missionaries as a source of religion. Christianity filled a spiritual void in the lives of Hawaiians and brought education to the islands.
To learn more about Hawaii's history and culture visit these sites:

The Hawaiian Historical Society


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