Monday, March 9, 2009

Kanohona Music Festival & Nene update...

Our neighbor is The Waipa Foundation, the vision of a far-sighted Hawaiian friend, David Sproat, who decades ago stopped development of this valley. The whole ahupua’a, a traditional land division from the mountain to the ocean, had been given to the Hawaiian people by their last Queen. Forced to give up her throne by America, she abdicated rather than see any of her subjects killed…. Gun ships were poised in the harbor.

A large section of the valley is now in taro cultivation, and a weekly poi day is open to the community, who share in the making of poi which is then distributed amongst the community. Thousands of Koa trees have been replanted, along with many other endangered species, including sandalwood, a difficult achievement as in its early years it is semi-parasitic, needing other plants to survive. This was once known as Sandalwood valley before the trees were harvested for export generations ago.

There is a beautiful young specimen in the farm’s own native plant garden, and also rows of delicious mamaki, the famous tea plant, a member of the nutritious nettle family.

Next to Hanalei Bay, an ancient fish pond has been restored from rubbish and scrub and replanted with large swathes of native plants. Endangered birds now frequent the area again. There is a small ropes course and campground; it is also the home of some magnificent outrigger canoes. Small groups of Hawaiian children come from all the islands for camps and to learn.

Some weekends there are canoe races in Hanalei Bay and campfires at night by the beach. Many of the children are fully bilingual, being educated in their native language. We are given privileged glimpses of a way of life that few non-Hawaiians get to experience, and of which most visitors are unaware.

Sometimes there is a hula facing the mountain, or ukulele music under the big Kukui tree. Sharing stories of our separate homelands under the moon with visiting islanders from Ni'ihau, the forbidden isle. Or a tiny brown striped wild piglet chasing stick with the Labrador, both with wagging tails. The end of February was the First Annual Kanahona Festival, a full day of continuous Hawaiian music, art and craft. Through the week, tents began appearing in the field, until Friday night, when some musicians began warming up and gentle Hawaiian songs drifted into the house, later lulling me to sleep. All next day excellent musicians took the stage as I worked contentedly to their songs.

After the conch was blown honoring the directions, the dancers entered carrying individual ti leis, wrapped in the leaves of the plant. The plant is regarded as a purifier and guardian of its surroundings. A delicious ceremonial drink can made from its root. They are planted around every home for protection in the same way as rowan was planted in Scotland to keep away evil, its woven branches wrapped around the horns of cattle, byres, or over the threshold, amulets of its wood or berries or leaves around the necks of children. Notice the hat in the foreground woven from local pandanus, with a band made from feathers - a modern application of an ancient skill.

One of the dances was special to this valley and included the taro, still grown here. Another was of a vision from Waimea, a reminder to hold fast to the culture. It was all very beautiful, the arc of mountain ridges ever present in the background.

When the dancers left, the chanter who had beat out the rhythm on the drum stepped from the side to take her bow. Along with the ti lei she wears yellow leis, another example of surviving feather work.
The dancers were described as the best of the best on the island. Stacy the farm manager, dances at the front left, next to the tall male dancer.
Food and artisans, environmental awareness, fragrant plants a skilled flower weaver , were all placed around the main seating area.
If interested, check my friend Heidi’s blog with pictures of Poi day and the outrigger adventure we were treated to when she visited recently. Also the Waipa foundation has its own website.

The young nene grew rapidly in February; eight weeks after hatching they look like smaller dark versions of the adults. The last thing to change will be the distinctive neck. The final feathers that form the black collar will not be complete until next year and are good for identifying unbanded birds, as each is unique.

One male bird in the valley is trailing yards of fishing line, that has matted and snagged on the large band the bird sanctuary uses for field identification. The thickness of the band acts like a hook and I’ve seen this before with these bands, which are much thicker than the state band on the other leg. The bird is already limping, but impossible to approach.

the twins from the nest are pictured eating the hanging Spanish moss that is accessable. There used to be an orchid here too, along with a thick covering of lichen, now all eaten up to the level the nene can reach. In the past an extinct large relative of the nene had the advantage of at least twice the reach for gleaning the lichen- and epiphyte-rich forests. Its beak, similar to a turtle's, was ideal for tearing. Watching the nene at this tree it's easy to imagine.

Some of the many quick sketches I made following the babies growth. Though small and rough, they document the changes from egg to fully-feathered birds, and might make a nice little booklet when gathered together. I'd love comments.