Mālama Kumu in South Africa

November 16, 2015

A common question, from those in Hawai‘i and across the rest of the world, is why Punahou sends teachers to different places across the world to intersect with the Hōkūle'a? All of the experiences thus far have helped to answer that question, and validate the importance of engaging in ventures and transformations that Hōkūle'a has provided.

Day #4 began with the entire Hawai'i delegation visiting St. Mary's Primary School located outside of the urban center of Cape Town. It was obvious that this school was not as well-resourced as other schools, however the students were full of life and had much to share. A formal ceremony and greeting took place in their outdoor meeting place as students sat in front and around the space. Chief Navigator Nainoa Thompson ‘72 and other crew members of Hōkūle'a addressed the students and shared the message of environmental and ocean sustainability as well as their mission to carry peace across the world. The address culminated with the gift of desks donated to the school by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Then students and teachers from Kamehameha School and Hālau Kū Mana Public Charter School performed both separately and together to share a little about Hawaiian culture through dance and song.

The response from the students and faculty at St. Mary's was lively and full of wonder, and a group of dancers and drummers from St. Mary's reciprocated by sharing some of their wonderful cultural traditions. The ability of the students to contort and maintain such high energy through their rhythmic patterns was extraordinary, but appeared to be status quo for them.

The real magic began when the Hawaiian and South African cultures began to meld through dancing and drumming. Even the kumu and crewmembers got involved in the shared dance battles and congo lines.

Mornings like this validate the purpose of the voyage. Despite different languages, attire and cultural peculiarities, the similarities were endless. Neither group intended to prove their culture was better. Instead it was a validation of one's home culture while gaining further appreciation for the newly introduced cultural activities. The opportunity to familiarize parts of the world can only help future generations develop and practice greater empathy than was exhibited before.

Submitted by Chai Reddy, Director of Wo International Center at Punahou