Sunday, May 28, 2017

Nanea, Kanani and the Hula

I know that everyone is excited about Nanea! I am too! But when we make clothes for Nanea or envision the collection we want to create for her, we need to treat her culture with respect.


Nanea is Hawaiian, and most people associate that with hula.

The article "The Dancing Hawaiian Girl, at Your Service" by Lisa Wade gives a very good look at the history of hula.

Hula was originally a religious dance, and it was performed mostly by men. It was a form of story telling.

Hula was transformed and women became the primary dancers when tourism to Hawaii became more widespread. The women were objectified and exotified. Hula was usurped by the tourist trade and became a commodity.

You can read more about it in the article "The Evolution of Hula" by Sarah Neal.

Because of the religious origins of hula, you should be very careful and respectful in creating hula-type outfits. Treat the culture with respect and do your homework.

Molly McIntire didn't realize it, and I didn't realize it as a child, but she was disrespectful in dressing up as a hula girl for Halloween.



I do not feel that the Forever 18 Inches Aloha Hula Accessory Pattern does a good job at treating the hula with respect or portraying it in an accurate manner.


The pattern description suggests, "Make an item each night while viewing your favorite chick flick!"
 This does not offer any respect at all for Hawaiian culture. It makes me feel icky.

I am myself not an expert in hula or what hula dancers wear. I just believe in respecting cultures and not stealing their clothing or other cultural components because it is fun.




I feel that better options are the Eden Ava Hawaiian Pa'u Hula Outfit or the Eden Ava Hawaiian Muu Muu Dress. I trust this pattern designer to do her research before designing clothes.




One good resource for researching hula is the Hula Preservation Society. Another is the Hula Dance Headquarters

Also, something that not everyone may be aware of is that not all hula is Hawaiian. Tahiti also has traditions of hula.

Here are some phrases that can help you search for images of more authentic Polynesian clothing for Hawaii, Tahiti, and Aotearoa. 


Maori – “Kapa Haka”
Tahitian – “Tahiti Fete”, “Ori Tahiti”
Hula – “Merrie Monarch”, “Liliuokalani keiki”

Lolatai at American Girl Collectors shared the following thoughts:

"There is a middle group between serious hula and performances for tourists. Whole classes of local school kids will perform a short hula during local holidays that warrant school/community gatherings (think May Day), and the parents just run out to the local hula supply store to grab some costumes and lei in bulk. Of course, many kids just dance in regular clothing, but that’s often an issue of money. Where mainland children may sing a song at school performances, perhaps with hand movements, etc., local kids in Hawaii will do some version of hula – ranging from the very basics to rather serious where the kids have to audition or be advanced dancers in order to perform. As I am typing, I am also thinking perhaps this is one of those things that’s okay when locals do it, but comes across as insensitive when others do the same thing? What do you think?"

I think that she may be correct in saying this.

Please treat hula with the respect it deserves!

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