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Hawaiian culture given prominent exposure at ADB mtg.

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  • Hawaii Nation Info
    ADB meeting Hawaiian culture given prominent exposure Tuesday, May 8, 2001 Honolulu Advertiser By Glenn Scott Advertiser Staff Writer In an act that captured
    Message 1 of 1 , May 8, 2001
      ADB meeting
      Hawaiian culture given prominent exposure

      Tuesday, May 8, 2001
      Honolulu Advertiser

      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
      koa trees.

      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.
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