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October is Wayfinding Month: A Celebration of an Ancient Art

by Brea Aamoth on September 22nd, 2016

For generations the starry heavens guided deep-sea voyagers from island to island across Oceania, pointing the direction to new landfalls and marking pathways to lead them home. This history of human exploration across Earth’s largest ocean is truly one of the world’s epic tales of human migration. Early voyagers constructed sophisticated seagoing canoes from available natural resources, then sailed across open ocean using the light of the stars and cues from nature as their guides. To celebrate centuries of non-instrument navigation, Mayor Billy Kenoi has officially proclaimed October as Wayfinding Month, to be dedicated to community activities centered around the theme of the wa‘a (canoe).

Preparation for the festivities began in mid September with the ceremonial cutting of an albizia tree for transfer to the shores of Hilo’s Bayfront. There, nā kālai wa‘a (canoe carvers) will begin the carving and creation of a wa‘a kaukahi (single-hulled canoe). The public is invited to watch the initial construction and transformation of the tree from a log to a canoe hull on Tuesday, October 4 – Thursday, October 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m at Hilo Bayfront. The community can continue to watch the construction of the wa‘a during ‘Wa’a Wednesdays’ taking place October 12, 19 and 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with an opportunity to talk story with some of the men and women who have been involved in the modern Hawaiian movement to perpetuate canoe carving. Following its completion and a community blessing, the wa‘a will launch into Hilo Bay waters on Friday, October 28 at 10:00 a.m.

Schools are urged to sign up their classes for field trip excursions to Hilo’s Bayfront throughout the month of October to observe the canoe building in action and learn about the art of wayfinding and canoe carving. To take advantage of this educational opportunity, schedule a field trip by calling Kalani Kahalioumi at the County of Hawai‘i Offices at 808-961-8688.

Culminating Wayfinding Month will be the 9th Annual ‘Imiloa Wayfinding Festival at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on Saturday, October 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This free community event will feature Hilo’s newest canoe built during Wayfinding Month, special planetarium programming and canoe activities for the entire ‘ohana.

Other Wayfinding activities throughout the month of October include Wa‘a Talks with members of ‘Ohana Wa‘a at Richardson’s Ocean Center on October 13 at 4:00 p.m. and a Wayfinding Talk at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on October 14 at 7:00 p.m. A Temple of Children Mele Mural activity will take place on October 22 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Palekai, Radio Bay. After ‘Imiloa’s Wayfinding Festival, enjoy music at the Wayfinding Wahine Concert at Kohala Village HUB  Barn on Saturday, October 29 at 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. featuring the Holo Queens (Wahine Voyagers:) Kainani Kahaunaele, Mahina Paishon Duarte, Lee Ann Punua and Pelika Bertelmann.

Special thanks to the County of Hawai‘i and the Kohala Village Hub for making Wayfinding Month possible.


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