June 18, 2017

Hokule'a Returns Home (or Disney's Moana Got It Right)!

Mark asked me a while back to do a review of Disney's Moana since I'm a kama'aina (local resident) born and raised in Hawaii. I wanted to re-watch the movie on blu-ray before writing down my thoughts, but haven't had a chance. But I found a perfect way to tie Moana into an event that occurred this past Saturday, June 17 at approximately 9:45 (Hawaii time).

This milestone was the end of the Hokule'a's voyage around the world. A journey that would last three years and traverse 47,000 nautical miles, reaching 85 ports and 26 nations. Began in May 2014, the homecoming was an emotional and proud moment for the Hawaiian people and its culture.  Hokule'a (Star of Gladness) first set sail in 1976 to the island of Tahiti. At the time, its accomplishment was nothing short of miraculous. The skills and knowledge that enabled the Polynesians to sail to Hawaii had been lost for over 600 years. Herb Kane, a renowned Hawaiian painter, had a dream to rebuild the double-hulled sailing canoe of his ancestors, and this vision began the rediscovery of a lost art.

In 1978, Hokule'a set out on a second voyage to Tahiti, but this journey ended in tragedy. Capsized and in mortal danger, legendary surfer Eddie Aikau decided to paddle out for help in the hopes of rescuing the stranded crew. He never made it back although the crew was eventually rescued. The phrase "Eddie Would Go" became a mantra among the locals, echoing Eddie's sacrifice and willingness to take on the impossible.

In Moana, navigation by the stars is a key component and I love the way Disney incorporated it into the heart of the story. They clearly did their homework and understood the importance of this skill in relation to the Hawaiians. For all the criticism Disney gets when adapting stories from different cultures and races, I never felt they disrespected or tried to "whitewash" Moana to fit western view or perspective. And while it does feel that the local village comes off as a little too perfect at times, the feeling of family, love, and respect are strong aspects of its people. I thought "Lilo and Stitch" did a good job of representing aspects of Hawaii in a genuine manner, but Moana is on a whole different level.

With an arrival time of 10:00 am, my friend and I decided to head out early to the rock wall adjacent to Magic Island in order to get a good vantage point of the canoe's arrival. We got to Waikiki at 4:30 and crossed a long stretch of rocks in the dark, hoping not too fall and hurt ourselves. We arrived to the end to the jetty by 5:30 and hunkered down for the long wait. While testing certain areas of the rocks for the best photo ops, I lost my footing and nearly fell into the ocean. Twice I fell and stopped my fall with the palm of my hand, giving me some nice gashes and cuts. Blood flowed freely from my right knee too. 

When Hokule'a finally docked, most of the discomfort and tiredness disappeared. To see the canoe and its crew come home was more magical than any Disney movie could ever be...

     (All photographs Copyright 2017 by Len Yokoyama)

1 comment:

Mark Taft said...

What a story! And what impressive accomplishments! I always love it when you write, Len. Your gut instincts are right on, and your photos always bring richness to your stories. I'm blessed to have you as a friend and author on the blog!