Monday, November 12, 2012

Hale Nanea - a Hidden Hawaiian Cultural Center

The hidden Hale Nanea Hall. 

Hale Nanea.  This is a place hula dancers would know. Or members of the Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce. Or people who've lived on Maui a long time, whose families have been on the island for more than one generation.

Ocean view from Hale Nanea

For a Hawaiian Cultural Center, it’s off the beaten path, far from tourists and hidden from locals.  When we received an invitation to a campaign event for Carmen Hulu Lindseyboth DH and I scratched our heads. There was no address with the invitation. You're just expected to know where it is. I looked online but found a lot of vacation rentals and a brief mention that it was near the harbor. We asked a friend, who knew where it was because she went to a wedding there, but even her sister, who was also born and raised on Maui, had never had of it. So we didn't feel too stupid.  
Hale Nanea Hall is right on the ocean, in the Kahului Harbor. 
So we went to a fundraising dinner with other residents on Maui, many of whom were related, although not always closely, to the candidate.  Family is really different in Hawaii, even the concept of family, from what I've experienced on the mainland. Local families are very tight, and extended, and large. Most mainland families I know don't have such close family ties or desire to keep connected with distantly related relatives. It was not uncommon for my childhood friends to go to large family gatherings every Sunday. So when someone's running for office, the whole family and extended family pitch in to help. I really think we may have been two of the five people (in a group of 150) who were not related to the candidate. 

Directions to Hale Nanea Cultural Center:
In Kahului, head towards the Harbor. Turn right on Amala Road towards Cash n Carry.  This is the same road that goes to Kanaha Beach Park, famous for windsurfers and kiteboarders. Before Cash n Carry, look for a dirt road on the makai (ocean) side. There’s a sign on the corner for Hale Nanea. Go down the dirt road and park in front of the one-story building. That’s it. Simple, but it doesn’t have a real address or street.

A small orange sign marks Hale Nanea.
Cash n Carry is just across the street. 

Hale Nanea is a humble one-story building with a dirt parking lot. Outside, there was a slender woman on the grass facing the ocean, practicing hula for the performance that night. Around the side of Hale Nanea was a big imu (Hawaiian earth oven) surrounded by a chain link fence. There must be some good lu’aus here. Inside, there were long tables with chairs, and a stage on the far side of the room. 

Modern style Hawaiian imu oven.
Rocks are underneath tin roof panels. 

Mililani Trask 
Mililani Trask, a well-known Hawaiian activist, who was always on the news when I was growing up, spoke to the audience. I overheard one person say she had never heard Mililani speak so joyfully. I had to agree: my images of Mililani were always of a fiery Hawaiian woman speaking out against this or that injustice. To see her smiling was a surprise, although this picture doesn't show it!

There was a lot of hula that night, and performance, since Hulu is also a professional singer. We saw young girls doing hula, then teenagers, and then Hulu's adult daughters dancing hula. This is where hula dancers get their start, practicing in a halau (hula group), competing in hula competitions, and performing for community events, to help their aunty run for office. All the hula girls had long hair, often down to their waistline. 

Hula girls with long, long hair.

Hulu's daughter who was hosting the event, was outrageously funny and outspoken, so we were well-entertained.  There were even door prizes, like a practical gift basket full of local favorites like spam, a can of chili, a can of Vienna sausage, and necessities like paper towels. 

Practical local gift basket

The other really intriguing door prize was a coconut broom, made from coconut midribs. This would be excellent for brushing away spider webs during spider season. 

Local food served at the event.
Clockwise from upper right: chow fun, mac salad, lomi lomi salmon,
pineapple chunks, kalua pork, white rice with shoyu (soy sauce).

Who can use Hale Nanea?
At first, I thought it was managed by the County, but it's different from a community center. Anyone who is having a big gathering can reserve space at a nearby community center through the Parks and Recreation Dept. Then I thought maybe the Office of Hawaiian Affairs oversees Hale Nanea. But apparently, it was created and is managed by the Royal Order of Kamehameha (referring to Kamehameha I, King of Hawaii). They don't seem to have website for the Maui chapter, but do have a web presence on the other islands. There is nothing like discovering something new in a place you've been to many times. 

To read more about Hale Nanea, check out Maui Magazine's article


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