Lu’au celebrates Polynesian culture, history and mythology

Apr 27th, 2017 | By | Category: 2016-2017, News

By Madison Melenudo
Staff Writer

Hawai’i club’s annual Lu’au unites students and teachers from a range of different backgrounds and cultures in order to share the diverse traditions of Hawai’i with the school and the Salem community. This is one of Willamette University’s most popular events, with students and community members packing into the Cone Field House.

This year, the theme for Lu`au told the famous legend of the Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanos. According to legend, Pele traveled from Tahiti to Hawai’i with her brother, the shark god, Kamohoali’i. She was sent away by her parents who feared her temper and the rivalry between Pele and her sister, Namakaokaha’i, the goddess of water, became too overwhelming. Pele is said to reside inside of the youngest and most active volcano, Kīlauea, that is located on the southern side of the Big Island.

“Pele was brought to this world to be the keeper of all light, warmth, and fire,” senior Crystelle Baclig said to the crowd. “She was given the power to create fire lava. She carried with her Paoa, a magic digging tool. When she struck Paoa into the ground, volcanoes emerged.

The event was split between a dinner portion and the performance portion. The dinner came first, with food you’d be likely to find on the islands being served to the many attendees. This included food you would find in the surrounding Pacific Islands and dishes that were brought to Hawai’i from Asia.

The performances consisted of 13 traditional dances that portrayed Pele’s journey from Tahiti to Hawai’i, and her interactions between her brother and sisters along the way. One of them was an upbeat, energizing ceremonial dance called “Tahiti Ora Moemoea,” that kicked off the show on an exciting note. It told the story of Pele’s childhood in Tahiti, where life and the people who reside on the island are said to be vibrant and full of aspirations.

Another dance was “E Pele”, which was a smooth and graceful dance that introduced Pele’s seven sisters to the audience. Although it was more relaxed, it was also one of the most powerful dances of the night, as it showed the serious side of the legend and seemed to be one that paid its respects to the goddess.

Michelle Nagata, a sophomore and dancer who has participated in Lu’au for two years, shared her thoughts of the event.

“I participated in Lū’au because I wanted to share the culture of my home with the Willamette and Oregon communities,” Nagata said. “I think people can benefit from learning about each other’s cultures, and Lū’au was one way for me to share parts of my home with others.”

Lū’au is known for attracting many students to perform, and many of these individuals spend hours throughout the year practicing. The Lu’au is the primary event of the Hawai’i club here at Willamette.

“It is fun, it’s like stressful, but it’s really nice when more people come and then it’s like, Wow I put in all this work…. and it’s very validating,” sophomore dancer Kiley Lin said.

Those who worked on the Lū’au will already have to start working on next year’s event, given that it is one of the biggest events of the year.

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