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Hawaiian Culture



Pack your flip flops, sunblock and your favorite flowered shirt and say aloha to your humdrum life, because this week we are jetting off to the islands of Hawaii! There are eight main islands that make up the state of Hawaii and though they all have different names, they are collectively and lovingly referred to as “Tropical Paradise”. People from all around the world dream of visiting Hawaii each year to take part in traditional, cultural experiences like attending a polynesian luau, surfing waves at North Shore, strolling through tropical gardens, venturing to the countryside to pick their own pineapples and shopping in Honolulu for the perfect Hawaiian shirt!

When thinking of a Hawaiian luau some of the images that spring to mind are sure to include grass skirts, roasted pork, lei and tiki masks. Luaus have a rich polynesion history as do the traditional tiki masks that have become symbolic with this favorite Hawaiian experience. Tiki masks were originally designed to represent the four main Hawaiian gods, and were worn as a means of protection from evil spirits. An authentic tiki mask is carved from wood but you can capture the essence of this Hawaiian symbol quite easily in a watercolor painting. Begin by choosing which of the gods you would like to represent in your artwork, either Kane, god of sunlight, Kanaloa, god of the ocean, Ku, god of war or Lono, god of peace. Tiki masks are usually circular or oval shaped and the facial features tend to be exaggerated, so with this in mind you can be as creative as you like in your representation. Historically, tiki masks were left unpainted or stained with earth tones and you will find that earth tones will give your mask a very natural look.

What should one wear when attending a luau you ask? A Hawaiian shirt of course. The Hawaiian shirt, also known as the aloha shirt, began appearing in Hawaiian culture in the 1920’s and 30’s. It is believed that the aloha shirt was the result of local Japanese women repurposing their kimono fabric to make shirts for men. By the late 1930’s the Hawaiian shirt had become a popular symbol in mainland America representing wealth and a carefree attitude, because at that time, it was only the wealthy who were rich enough to vacation in Hawaii. The wearer of a Hawaiian shirt could don the flower printed, button down business casual collared shirt and lift himself out of the despair of the 1940’s, even if just for the day. Today the Hawaiian shirt continues to herald tropical vibes and a carefree, fanciful attitude for all who dare to wear it. At Gogh Arts, campers made Hawaiian shirts using origami and you can too. Choosing a bright tropical color for your paper is key. Consider adding tropical images to your design such as parrots, fish, palm trees, hula girls or brightly colored flowers.

Hawaii is very well known for its lush gardens full of colorful flowers. One can not imagine visiting Hawaii without being adorned with a lei of sweetly scented plumeria, ginger and pikake blossoms. Lei were traditionally worn by ancient Polynesian Hawaiians to signify royalty and social rank. Different kinds of flowers hold special meanings in Hawaii. It was once forbidden for any person other than royalty to wear the plumeria flower. The Hawaiian hibiscus flower signifies beauty and joyfulness. The orchid symbolizes luxury. The bird of paradise flower with its unique name and its odd shape that resembles a bird, signifies freedom and liberty. The bract of the flower is canoe shaped with six upright orange petals and three blue petals. Painting a bird of paradise is fairly simple and will brighten up any space.

Flowers aren’t the only vegetation celebrated in Hawaii. I’m talking about pineapples of course! Picture perfect pineapples are synonymous with Hawaii, there’s even a pizza to prove it. Pineapples have been found growing in Hawaii since the mid 1700’s and it’s no surprise. Did you know that eating pineapples prevented scurvy? This is likely what made them a staple on long boat rides and presumably how they arrived in Hawaii. In the early 1900’s James D. Dole saw profit in this plant and built himself a Hawaiian pineapple empire. He established the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, planting, harvesting and canning pineapples for sale all around the world. By the 1930’s Hawaii dominated the pineapple market. Today you can still visit the Dole pineapple farm and pick out your own pineapple. If you can’t make it to Hawaii this summer you might enjoy making your own pineapple instead by sculpting one from clay! At Gogh Arts, we made cute kawaii pineapples by giving our pineapples an adorable face. These tiny fun fruit sculptures also make darling charms for wearing on a necklace too.

No Hawaiian experience would be complete without a trip to the beach. Whether you’re into sunbathing, snorkeling, swimming or surfing, the beaches of Hawaii don’t disappoint. Seasons affect the surf in Hawaii. Some beaches are calm and gentle during the summer making them ideal for lazy afternoons, but in the winter the seas become rough and unpredictable. Typically speaking, summer months offer the best of the surf all around the islands, but in the winter months, northeastern tradewinds create extreme swells on the North Shore. These waves are one of the things that Hawaii is famous for and only the best, most experienced surfers dare to ride. You can capture the essence of the North Shore in a bottle to enjoy any time of the year. To make a wave in a bottle all you need is baby oil, blue food coloring and of course, water. Another fun way to enjoy the surf at home is to make your own paper surfboard. With a few brightly colored pieces of paper and some Hawaiian symbols thrown in you can custom design your own surfboard just like the big kahunas of Hawaii!


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