Oh Poly Cult. I am so conflicted on you. I love you. I hate you. I …
We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center and it was beautiful!!! It really is! We booked our tickets through MWR (do it- much cheaper!) and checked the pups into overnight boarding at the vets (since we knew we wouldn’t be back before late). The drive from here to there was beautiful. The layout of the center is beautiful, lots of tropical trees, flowers, a windy ‘river’ with boats, and it’s divvied up into several small Polynesian villages. Each village tells the story of typical life in a variety of different Polynesian islands. Example: Maori culture, Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian, Fiji, Tahiti. You get to explore and learn about each culture through their storytelling (‘talkstory’), re-enactments, art, song, dance, architecture, life skills, etc. Each culture is presented by people FROM those cultures, so it’s a great way of learning! I would suggest however, skip the tour– I felt like we missed stuff. If you Self-guide your way through, you can spend more/less time as you see fit. For me? I was less interested in the dance and more interested in the Tapa making (visual arts)–which means, I of course drifted away from my group (dancing) to go check out the Tapa. 😉 Not necessarily an advisable tactic, but for what you pay, you should see what interests you! Next time– definitely self-guiding. Anyhow, as I was saying, I LOVED the layout, loved the presentations of the various cultures, loved the whole learning experience and really enjoyed the big show (HA: Breath of Life) at the end. Pay the extra and see the show– it is SO worth it! 🙂
Now my problems with it… The weird practice of selling $5 ice-cream before every performance. Seriously- it was like a commercial. They (performers) would wait 15 minutes for these people to shill the ice cream before anything would begin. It was like commercials. Nobody expects commercials when going to a museum (which, technically, this would fall under the category of Living Museum..). It was weird and annoying. Set up your stands and we’ll buy it -when we see it- if we want it. Enough already. 😛
Second- and this is purely personal. The Poly Cult Ctr is run by a religious group. A strange (unexpected) arrangement– but okay… How it works, is the employees of the center are all hired from their respective islands, and work in exchange for an education (fully funded!) at a well-known university here in HI. I DO think that’s a pretty good deal; a work study in exchange for your education? Cool. My concern however, is awkward to phrase, so bear with me. It has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the particular faith in this situation. You can sub ANY faith in that spot, the reasons for my discomfort are the same.
Historically speaking, almost every culture has been either wiped out or assimilated to the point of near non-existence by religious groups. Missionaries, although well-intentioned, in their effort to ‘save the souls’ of indigenous people, succeeded in almost entirely erasing their very cultures by eroding or negating their native belief systems. In most indigenous cultures their art, their artifacts, their rituals are all centered around their belief system. Their native faiths. When missionaries visited these peoples and ‘gave them G-d’– they lost that which made them uniquely and culturally THEM. (*please note this is not directed at any particular faith’s missionaries)
Now, in the US, when we assimilated (nearly annihilated) the Native population– it was systematic. It began with the missionaries, moved on to the taking of land and relegation to reservations, and moved into the ‘education phase.’ The education phase, was when the tribes children were taken and sent to boarding schools. These schools forbade the use of their languages, cut their hair (it was too native), dressed them like pioneer children, forced them to speak English, forced them to learn their christian prayers and not speak of their native life. It basically was designed to re-program the kids. To erase their cultural identity.
Now how does this relate…
Well, my concern is– when these students (high school age) are taken from their islands and accepted into BYU (with the promise of a free education!) what level of religious indoctrination is involved? For the duration of their time at school and employment at the PCC, they are expected to abide by the host organizations faith–including all restrictions. Upon completion of their education, the kids are then sent back to their islands. There is a never-ending stream of students from these islands, willing to take their place, due to the lure of free education in ‘America’ (Hawaii). But when the kids go home- how does that affect their culture? Are Maori kids returning to New Zealand with newly established religious views? Are all these island participants coming to work here and returning ‘washed’ of their indigenous faiths? I’m probably not explaining myself very well, but maybe you can understand my concern? My thought process? Imagine, if every generation of indigenous graduating high school seniors, went off to college and returned having converted to Judaism. How long would it take, before that cultures belief system was left behind and they (as a culture) shifted toward a Jewish belief system? Coconut shell Shabbat sets, Seashell shofars…?
As you can see, I am conflicted. I love Poly Cult, I hate Poly Cult. But I did enjoy my visit and would absolutely recommend it to anyone if you visit the island. Just don’t overthink it like I do. It’s a lot easier to enjoy a good time when you don’t think of tomorrow, right?