"The ancestors will help you in your dreams," was a bedtime reminder by my grandma. This project is dedicated to my namesake and a gracious storyteller who is always with me. "If we forget our past, we erase our people," was the inspirational theme of my creative journey, my purpose in life and making this short film for my final project in CM353 Storytelling Video Production. The subject choice and design of the film was left to our preference.
The Project: Make an Experimental Video
What da heck is an experimental video? I am a storyteller used to conforming to a beginning, middle and end. The common characteristic of the examples of "experimental" films viewed in class were with "crazy visuals and sounds" without coherency. I was severely challenged and feared eminent failure. Our professor gave us a large blank canvas on which to paint our imagination. Unfortunately, the only image in my head and dreams were "feet." I didn't know what that meant, only that my inner self demanded that my video path include "feet." My journey to develop my film was rocky, laced with many days of distress. As I searched for "feet," I found a hula dancer and my eyes fixated on her feet. The picture in my head slowly materialized which became my true path and resolve to my tormented creative soul and the vision of what I was destined to create.
If We Forget Our Past, We Erase Our People
My Hawaiian name, Kahula, was passed down to me through generations. My grandmother, against my mother's intentions and mine, forced me to diligently attend hula practice since I was 8 years old. I became a hula dancer like my namesakes who like me, had "helpers," according to the many stories told by my grandmother. Without that little "nudge," I doubt I would have found the love for the hula that I hold precious today. Tūtū (grandma) would put me to bed and lead me in hula practice "in my mind," with eyes closed, while tucked snugly in bed with toes and fingers free with "wiggle" room. She would beat the bed post to make the sound of the pahu (drum) as I imagined myself in an empty room practicing the hula I recently learned. She promised that when I fall asleep, a lady in a white pahu skirt with no face would step into my dreams and continue practicing my hula for me while I slept, and when I awoke, I would know the dance well. The "white lady" came whenever I needed her help, but my grandmother claimed there were other helpers in the midst "watching over me." She was a strong Catholic member and believed the Lord sends helping angels and devoted "ancestors" to help and bless us. I've learned that the blessings pour down in abundance and it's impossible to catch them all. One just has to. listen and to be "open" to catch as much of the blessings as possible.
The Necessary Nudge
I was privy to certain helpers because of my name, Kahula, which apparently came with benefits and responsibilities. Although the Hawaiian Rennaisance I witnessed in my teens has passed, I believe now in 2021, a new rennaisance is necessary. I see families today, including my own, too busy to "nudge" our Hawaiian youth to practice the culture. We have become complacent with a false sense of "culture-safe" mindset. I see my children, now parents (like my own parents) with their own children too busy to take the time to walk and talk the culture. Kids today would rather play on their digital devices or do sports or play on their devices (Oops, did I say that already?). There is one too many of my young college peers who draw a blank face when the word "Hōkūleʻa" is mentioned. "What is that?" they ask. Shockingly, a few of them were Hawaiian. Like COVID, this is a silent virus and if left unattended, will spread and then "auwe!."
I had no choice to do hula. I was a kid and would have rather played with my friends than going to hula pracice twice a week. What did I know? I was just a kid! Today's youth often are given the choice and many families are just so busy or unaware that the culture is at risk in their neglect to "nudge." Sometimes the "nudge" to do something new is necessary, especially to keep the culture strong and not forgotten. Sometimes parents and grandparents must take the time to tell the stories of the past to insure the perpetuation of the culture. I have known the life of a hula dancer with wonderful memories of the passion and experiences with my hula sisters and hula kumu, Leinaʻala Kalama Heine. They are priceless memories indeed. I am very thankful I got the "nudge."
The Voices In My Head
I learned that everyone has "helpers" who are talking but if you not "open" to hear, the blessings and helpful voices go unheard. They only have good intentions to help. I believe we all have this spiritual connection, regardless of the religion practiced, but the native Hawaiians are said to have a special spiritual connection passed down from generations. My grandmother was very wise and claimed our family comes from "kahuna" spiritual priest on Molokaʻi, the most spiritual island in Hawaiʻi. I was fortunate to have had a strong mentor, my grandmother to teach me about the voices and my culture. I wonder how my life would be, my mental state, if I had no mentor to explain the voices in my head.
Big Feet, Big Head
I no longer question whether "the helpers" are real or if it was just a little girl's wild imagination. Did it really happen? Were the many nights with my grandma at my bedside real? She would tell me I had big feet. "Big feet, big head, lots of room for crazy ideas." I do have crazy ideas flying in my head all the time and often struggle to interpret and keep up with the creative "crazy" suggestions. I am a storyteller like my grandmother. I was born to create without limits. I just trust that the Lord and the ancestors got my back in anything I create and do. Jus' Sayin' - Hope this helps.
Take Care - Tūtū Abbie