Tahitian-Hawaiian cultural exchange benefits both


Tahitian students from Pomari School share an otea, or dance, in a cultural exchange with Kamehameha Maui students.

Shayna Ho

By Shayna Ho, staff writer

On March 7, Kamehameha Schools Maui students had the privilege of hosting Tahitian students from Pomari High School. They gathered and shared their own cultural knowledge at Keopuolani Hale on Thursday.

Approximately 30 students, 14 – 16 years old, and about 10 teachers from Tahiti visited KS Maui’s high school campus and were greeted by Kumu Kalei’s Hawaiian 4 class and Hawaiian Ensemble. Kamehameha students welcomed the Tahitians with Ua Ao Hawai’i and Na Mele o Nā Kai ‘Ewalu performed by senior Kekoa Uyechi.

“Although I felt super nervous, I also felt honored to share a bit of my own language – ‘ōlelo Hawai’i,” said solo chanter Uyechi.

Kamehameha Schools was then presented with a mo’ōlelo, a story of gratitude, one of the Pomari teachers. As the Tahitian students entered Keopuolani Hale, Kamehameha students greeted them with hand-made lei with the Tahitian traditional two kisses on each cheek.

“Part of the benefit of having cultural exchange speaking students is for students to actually see how they are similar or different from other kids their age, so I think it’s important,” said  Kumu Kalei Aarona-Lorenzo, Hawaiian 4 teacher, Hawaiian Ensemble adviser, and organizer of the exchange.

Kumu Kalei’s Hawaiian Ensemble, who traveled to Tahiti two years ago, performed a traditional Tahitian mele called Te Tama MaohiHanohano Helumoa, Toai, and Nakulukulu. Junior Tyra Joaquin and sophomores Kaiani Kiaha and Sami Hill also shared hula.

The Hawaiian Ensemble will be traveling to Aotearoa, New Zealand, this spring break to continue sharing the Hawaiian culture throughout the Polynesian islands.

“I would like to have this exchange with other schools, for example Kamehameha Schools here, because I want my students to open their mind and discover other ways of life,” said Mr. Rodney Levine, principal of Pomari.

In return for the performances and makana of the KS students, the students from Pomari High School performed their traditional otea and aparima, Tahitian dances.

Afterwards, students mingled, and laughter filled the air as students tried to communicate with each other. Flashes of cameras were abundant as new friendships were being made. The harmony of voices and instruments grew as students came together to share mele.

“My favorite experience was talking to them and sharing different things with each other. Like, they taught us to say things in French,” senior Raven “Kaulele” Neizman said.

Updated: The Tahitian students will be competing in Hawaiian Canoe Club’s Maui Invitational canoe regatta this Friday, beginning at 3:00 p.m. at Kahului Harbor. The regatta includes both one-man and six-man races. On Saturday, junior varsity teams are to compete beginning at 8:00 a.m.