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Thursday, March 6, 2014

‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi.

I read an article written by an Arab woman who doesn't think white women should belly dance. Since I am a white woman who dances hula, I thought it would be an interesting read. I wondered if by me dancing hula evoked the same feelings in Hawaiians.

The author of the article contends that by belly dancing, white women are appropriating the art for themselves and by doing so, causing harm to those who come from Arab cultures. White women belly dancing is akin to donning "Arab Face." That the fulfillment they get from belly dancing is at the expense of the Arab woman; that the Arab woman is somehow degraded because someone non-Arab finds something in the dance that moves them, that they find beautiful.

This article struck a chord with me. I think what the author is getting at is that her culture is being destroyed by people outside of it participating in it. I don't necessarily agree with her.

I've often thought about what people think of me when they see a white girl with no previous connection to Hawaii receiving such fulfillment and happiness from dancing hula.  I've only visited a few of the places we honor with hula. I only know about the people we dance about from what my Kumu has told me or what I've read on my own. I don't worship any of the gods we dance about.  I just know that I have a right to be in my halau because my Kumu says I do.

While I do think there is the threat of a culture to be watered down by outside influences, or for concepts or precepts to be interpreted incorrectly based on one's own culture, or even for cultures to be suppressed by another due to their own religious beliefs, I don't think it is wrong for someone to want to learn about other cultures or to practice art forms outside of one's own ethnic or national tradition.

I think it's important to preserve one's culture. I think it's important to learn about one's culture, one's history. I also think it's important to learn about other cultures, ethnicities and rituals. In doing so, one is able to understand the another's motives, beliefs, practices and religions. One is able to find beauty in ways of doing things different from one's own. One is also able to find similarities and common ground with another. Through this, we may not always agree with each other, but we can at least understand each other better.

I see no contradiction with loving the dance of one culture, the food of another, and the art of yet another even though I know that most of the time dance, food, art and religion are interconnected and it's important to have a grasp of the whole picture.

My husband's ethnicity is different from those of his parents. He was adopted. He is ethnically one thing and culturally another. He identifies with the culture he was brought up in, not the ethnicity he looks like. We both think it is very important to share with our children the customs, rituals and traditions and spiritual practices we grew up with, and the cultures we identify with, because those things make up who we are, what we believe and how we live. We also think it's important to create traditions of our own to pass down. If we were to learn what his ethnic derivation is, I would encourage my children to explore that world as well. And when my children grow up and start families of their own, I would hope they and their spouses would carry on the tradition of sharing their individual histories and culture with their kids.

I guess what I'm getting at is I don't think it's wrong to step out of one's cultural bubble to explore what other cultures have to offer. It's not out of the question to find fulfillment and joy in a practice unlike something one may have experienced in one's own life. One just has to remember that inter-cultural exploration should come from a place of respect and one needs to honor its intentions and respect its traditions.






1 comment:

  1. I read that article, too. It was an interesting perspective, but the author missed the great point you bring up in your last paragraph. Nicely said.

    -Barak

    ReplyDelete

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