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The Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaiʻi : sovereign spaces reclaimed and created through hula competition, 1963--2010

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Item Summary

Title: The Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaiʻi : sovereign spaces reclaimed and created through hula competition, 1963--2010
Authors: Skillman, Teri Leigh
Keywords: Merrie Monarch Festival
Hilo Hawaiʻi
hula competition
Issue Date: May 2012
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2012]
Abstract: The Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaiʻi has transformed from a towne fair to a hula festival celebrating native Hawaiian culture through performances of hula.
Crucial to the Festival is the involvement of the hula community and the relationships built across local businesses in the Hilo community. Branding the Festival as a celebration of King Kalākaua's monarchy provided a culturally sovereign framework (Cobb) for the celebration of Hawaiian culture through hula and music with which the community identified. The narrative of the monarchy included immigrant groups whose ancestors were citizens of the Hawaiian nation. Visual representations of hula dancers are still at play in the visual repertoire of the hula community, wrapping and layering themselves into performances (Hall) of repatriated hula repertoire. The development of judging criteria continues to be a dynamic process of consensus building between the judges and kumu hula. Tension between preservation of tradition and innovation is renegotiated on an annual basis through a process-oriented dialogue. Limiting participation to Hawaiian hālau has ensured the Festival's longevity and permitted the living genre to develop in a dynamic way. A study of the Festival's competition and choice chants reveals a canon of mele hula kahiko performed at the Merrie Monarch that has remained in cultural memory. Analysis of the most performed hula kahiko, "Kaulilua,"reveals consistencies and variations in text, drum beat, melody, and vocal ornamentation. The place names in the chant have remained consistent through versions expressing the importance of place as a manifestation of native space and cultural sovereignty. Just as Cobb noted a shift to a new paradigm for museology, a shift is also happening in hula performance space.
Hula has been a conduit for the reestablishment of culturally sovereign spaces, the expression of group and individual agency, and the reclamation of an oral tradition (Stillman). The hula festival conveys kanaka maoli values and aesthetics, and redefines native authority in a festival performance space. Performing for the tourist gaze still exists but kanaka maoli are actively repossessing how Hawaiian culture is represented to the world. The Merrie Monarch Festival is an on-going, living process of reclamation of cultural sovereignty. It is a means of looking back to dance forward.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Music

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