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The Development and function of hana keaka (Hawaiian-medium theatre): A tool for the empowering Kanaka Maoli consciousness

Since time immemorial Kānaka Maoli have recounted histories, stories, and cultural beliefs through performance. The art of performance is intrinsic to Kanaka Maoli existence, as oratory was the means in which our stories were recorded and shared, prior to the introduction of a writing system. Performance was embedded within the traditional practices of Kānaka Maoli, both religious and secular, through ritual incantations, poetry, dance, formal oratory, and so on. These forms of expression were infused into the theatrical arts to create hana keaka (Hawaiian-medium theatre). Due to the negative effects of colonization that nearly obliterated the Hawaiian language, religion, cultural practices, forms of art, and the indigenous people of the Hawaiian archipelago, hana keaka faded into the background. However, the cultural renaissance of the 1970’s, specifically the movement to revitalize and reinvigorate the Hawaiian language, elevated Hawaiian performing arts moving them into the foreground. The arts have promoted Hawaiian culture, language, and spirituality. Performing arts like hana keaka assert a Kanaka Maoli worldview through the medium of ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i while reaffirming Kanaka Maoli consciousness. This thesis explores the Kanaka Maoli performing art form of hana keaka, documenting the history, development, and practice of hana keaka from times past into the modern era. The research identifies four kūkulu (pillars) that are fundamental for hana keaka; Mo‘olelo, Kū‘auhau, Hana No‘eau, and ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i. Each kūkulu are necessary elements in the composition of hana keaka. The thesis also examines the cultural practices, creation process, and structure of hana keaka through the creative works of Ka Hālau Hanakeaka, a Hawaiian language theatre troupe based at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. The productions of Ka Hālau Hanakeaka represent an indigenous Hawaiian theatre aesthetic that contributes to the Hawaiian language revitalization movement. This study proves how hana keaka is being used as a tool to promote Kanaka Maoli perspectives, to empower Kanaka Maoli identity, and to reinforce Kanaka Maoli consciousness.
Type of thesis
Baker, T. H. (2019). The Development and function of hana keaka (Hawaiian-medium theatre): A tool for the empowering Kanaka Maoli consciousness (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12425
The University of Waikato
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