The culture of Hawaii's indigenous
population is playing an increasingly influential role in the
development of Waikiki. The impact of native culture on two of the
destination's newest multimillion-dollar retail developments is
calling attention to a growing movement within the state's tourism
Enterprises' $535 million Waikiki Beach Walk redevelopment project
comprises nearly 2 million square feet of hotels, restaurants and
retail shops that have brought renewed energy to the area. But
Outrigger officials said they hoped that visitors and kama'aina, or
Hawaii residents, will appreciate the project's commitment to
native Hawaiian culture, as well.
The landscaping at
Waikiki Beach Walk incorporates a variety of native plants and
flowers along with prominent displays of Hawaiian language and
traditional island imagery. Architecture is inspired by outrigger
canoes and waves, and Hawaiian music plays an important role in the
"Waikiki has always
been associated with music, but that had sort of died along the way
somewhere," said Pila Kikuchi, Outrigger's manager of
organizational development. "Outrigger wanted to ... welcome music
back to Waikiki, and we're proud to be providing free monthly
In partnership with
the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame and the Hawaii Academy of Recording
Artists, Outrigger has created a music heritage program titled "Na
Mele No Na Pua," or "Music for the Generations." The program
features performances by prominent local artists and exhibits at
Waikiki Beach Walk. These include a corridor with a brightly
colored time line of native music.
development is also home to Mana Hawaii, an outlet selling locally
made and traditional Hawaiian merchandise. The 1,600-square-foot
shop, selling artwork, woodwork, clothing, hula accessories and
ukuleles, is a joint venture by five locally owned
The owners of the
five businesses -- Native Books, Na Mea Hawaii, Original Hawaiian
Traders/Hula Supply Center, Raku International/Ukulele House and
the Lomi Shop -- also plan to offer visitors lessons in Hawaiian
culture through hands-on classes led by local artists and experts
in pursuits such as surfing, hula and ukulele-playing.
"We're not such hot
retailers," said Maile Meyer, a woman of native Hawaiian ancestry
and owner of two of the five businesses. "We're more like resource
people. So anyone can come into Mana Hawaii, and we'll find the
answer to anything they want to know as it relates to the Hawaiian
The Royal Hawaiian
Shopping Center, next door to Waikiki Beach Walk, is undergoing an
$84 million renovation of its own. The 310,000-square-foot,
four-story mall has occupied three blocks of Waikiki's Kalakaua
Avenue for nearly 25 years, but its original architecture often
prompted comparisons to medieval strongholds.
"It was like a big,
concrete fortress," said Manu Boyd, Royal Hawaiian's cultural
director. "A lot of effort has been made to break things up and to
make it more inviting."
The Royal Hawaiian
Shopping Center, set for completion in the first quarter of 2008,
is incorporating meaningful aspects of the native heritage wherever
"I think the
opportunity here is to restore a cultural presence," Boyd said.
"Not only programmatically and aesthetically but also in a way
that's reflective of some of the elements that were here long
before the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center."
The site was once a
vast grove of coconut palms. Known as Helumoa, it was an early
capital of the Hawaiian kingdom and a favorite residence of
Today, many palms
have been planted, and the center of the mall has been redesignated
the Royal Grove. It will host interactive cultural activities such
as hula; lei making; lauhala, or hala leaf weaving; and kapa (tree
bark) pounding demonstrations.
"You want to create
an environment where people can learn and experience new things,
but you don't want to hit them over the head with it," Boyd
Offering the right
mix of sand, sunshine and indigenous culture is something the
Hawaii Tourism Authority has been working on for several
Douglas Kahikina Chang noted said more visitors are looking for an
authentic Hawaiian encounter and that hospitality companies realize
the positive impact on bottom lines.
He pointed out,
however, that for native culture to play a larger role in tourism,
the HTA must do more than just promote and market cultural tourism.
In 2008, a large part of the organization's $2.5 million budget for
cultural initiatives will be used to help preserve Hawaiian
goes beyond our tourist-related activities in that those things
that make up the very essence of our culture are the
practitioners," Chang said.
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