Hawaiian Renaissance

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The First and Second Hawaiian Renaissance (also often called the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance) was the Hawaiian resurgence of a distinct cultural identity that draws upon traditional kānaka maoli culture, with a significant divergence from the tourism-based "culture" which Hawaiʻi was previously known for worldwide (along with the rest of Polynesia).

First Hawaiian Renaissance[edit]

Kalakaua's Jubilee in 1886.
ʻIolani Palace, 1882 (foreground left to right) David Kalakaua, Samuel Nowlein, Esther Kapiolani, and Antoinette Manini.

The First Hawaiian Renaissance had its foundation in the nationalism sentiments of King Kamehameha V. At the time Hawaii was an independent kingdom. The intention was to form a contemporary national identity rather than modeling Hawaii after Great Britain and the Culture of the United States. King Kalākaua had a controversial rise to power which included an election riot upon public awareness of the results. His formal coronation under foreign military security gave the impression he took power by force rather than popularity.

Kalākaua took steps to perpetuate nationalism. Kalākaua replaced the considerably Christian national anthem He Mele Lahui Hawaii with Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī in 1876 inspired by Kamehameha I. He had the aged ʻIolani Palace rebuilt starting in 1879 and finishing in 1882.

Despite early efforts to earn favor with his people, growing views he was abandoning his people continued, Kalākaua intended to re-invent himself worthy as a ruler.[1]

Kalākaua spent three years planning his second coronation in 1883 to erase the impression given by his first, and 8,000 people attended. Kalakaua sponsored several traditional Hawaiian practices such as hula, chants, sports, and royal rituals. He also had Hawaiian myths, legends, and chants recorded in media such as the Kumulipo and had his genealogy traced.

Second Hawaiian Renaissance[edit]

Merrie Monarch Festival, 2003
Hokulea and outrigger canoes at Kailua, 2005

The Second Hawaiian Renaissance is generally considered to have started in 1970, and drew from similar cultural movements from the late 60s and early 70s. It is mostly known from music, such as Gabby Pahinui and his work with the Sons of Hawaii, or Keola and Kapono Beamer's traditionalist slack-key music, and their signature twin-hole guitar designs constructed at the Guitar and Lute Workshop. Other noted Hawaiian musicians who played an integral role in the renaissance were Dennis Pavao, Ledward Kaʻapana, and Nedward Kaʻapana. The Kaʻapana brothers, along with cousin Pavao formed the falsetto trio, Hui ʻOhana. The musical group "Olomana"[2] contributed greatly to the music of this period with songs like 'O Malia' and 'Mele O Kahoolawe'.

This period in Hawaiian history is also associated with a renewed interest in Hawaiian language, Pidgin, Hula, Traditional Hawaiian Crafts, Hawaiian Studies, and other cultural items.

The Merrie Monarch Festival, established in 1964 by George Na'ope, caused a resurgence in the study and practice of ancient hula developed and danced before 1893.[3]

The time also included intense land struggles such as that of Kalama Valley, Kahoʻolawe and Waiāhole/Waikāne, and a resurgence of traditional practices such as loʻi kalo (taro patch) farming, folk arts, and mālama ʻāina (traditional forestry/ land healing and restoration).

Polynesian voyaging is also a large aspect of the Hawaiian Renaissance.[4] In 1975, the Polynesian Voyaging Society built a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe. The vessel, Hōkūle‘a, and the re-adoption of non-instrument wayfinding navigation by Nainoa Thompson, are icons of the Hawaiian Renaissance and contributors to the resurgence of interest in Polynesian culture. Hōkūle‘a's most recent voyage concluded 8 June 2007. (see Hōkūle‘a)

The movement sometimes touches upon politics, including issues dealing with Native Hawaiians and restoration of Hawaiian independence. Amongst the outcomes was the Constitution of 1978, which produced the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and reclaiming federal land to the State like Kahoolawe.

The height of the Hawaiian Renaissance is usually located during the 1970s, and had mostly waned by 1980, although some refer to it as a still-contemporary movement.

The term "Hawaiian Renaissance" is sometimes also applied to the time period immediately following King Kalākaua's ascendance to the throne, which marked the public return of traditional arts such as the hula, after Calvinist missionary repression had forced these arts underground for several decades.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexander, William De Witt (1894). "The Coronation". Kalakaua's reign. Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette Company. pp. 16–17. 
  2. ^ Olomana Music website
  3. ^ Hula Festival Information
  4. ^ Goodell, Lela (1989). "Polynesian Voyaging Society: Introduction". A Guide to the Archives of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Voyages of the Hōkūle‘a (in en-US, portions in haw). The Kamehameha Schools. p. 5. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 

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