Hawaiian culture given prominent exposure at ADB mtg.
- ADB meeting
Hawaiian culture given prominent exposure
Tuesday, May 8, 2001
By Glenn Scott
Advertiser Staff Writer
In an act that captured the symbolism of the day, the Asian
Development Bank's annual meeting began in Honolulu yesterday with
the call from a conch shell reverberating through the huge lobby of
the Hawai'i Convention Center.
From the start, the international bank meeting carried a thoroughly
Hawaiian feel as participants gathered in the spacious center for the
first of five days of events focusing on programs to spur economic
development in the poorer parts of Asia.
If Asia was the context, Hawai'i was the eager and ambitious host,
offering a few new touches and some prominent images. Chief among
them visually was an exhibition site, something of a business and
cultural trade show, called the Global Pavilion.
The pavilion was a first for an Asian Development Bank meeting, and
the site's centerpiece left no doubt what the host organizers mean to
promote to the assembled group of 3,000 credentialed participants
from throughout Asia and Europe.
In the center of the room sat an 80- by 90-foot display of Hawai'i
complete with huge murals depicting scenes from Lahaina to Waimanalo.
This was the mammoth promotional tool that the state's visitor and
convention bureau uses in travel shows across North America. Never
before, however, had it been set up in Hawai'i.
Bindu Lohani, secretary of the bank, said the pavilion offered a new
dimension for what meeting hosts could provide in the future.
"We already have so many unique features here in Hawai'i," he said.
Another feature not seen by delegates before was the inclusion inside
the center of a Hawaiian cultural group, Aha Ho'okele, with several
dozen members drawing attention to their pavilion site. The group
offered examples of Hawaiian culture, from native plants to
traditional lei-making and weaving.
Member Sol Naluai brought hats woven 70 years ago by his mother, Luka
Ma'awa, using the dried and flattened pieces of seed pods from haole
Perhaps more significantly, the group also spread out along tabletops
copies of treaties that, they said, revealed the unfair treatment
that Hawaiian people have endured for more than a century.
Group leader Bumpy Kanahele said that, while such a Hawaiian rights
group might have been outsiders in years past, he was satisfied with
the chance that organizers had provided for the group to be inside
the center, engaging with visiting dignitaries.
"We needed to do this," he said. "You know what, this is about all of
Hawai'i and how we're perceived in the rest of the world."
The overall attitude, while not new to Hawai'i, was a bit different
at a staid ADB meeting, visitors said. Some seemed to like it.
"This is a bit good," said Abdul Rahman Haji Ahmad, head of
environment for the Kuala Lumpur City Council in Malaysia. "You're
blending the culture with the center itself."
At most international events in Southeast Asia, he said, local
culture is relegated to secondary purposes such as entertainment
during an official dinner. But that leaves the culture isolated.
"In this case, you're having it as part of things," he said. "I like
it. This is how to make the culture live."
By the end of the afternoon, as a group of the Hawaiians left through
the lobby, several said they enjoyed the unusual experience and felt
as though their presence had brought an important local touch to the
prestigious and rather formal international event.
"For me, it did," Kahilihiwa Kipapa said. She described the good
feeling when visitors stopped by the group's booth to ask about
native plants or historic artifacts on display. Others nodded.
"It's the first time I've been to something like this," said William Waiohu Jr.
Outside, the group gathered just outside the huge lobby windows. They
seemed in no hurry to leave.
© COPYRIGHT 2001 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.