Review of Storied Landscapes: Hawaiian Literature and Place. Paul Lyons. Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies, vol. 14, No. 2, 2000. 329-331.
In Hawaiian literature, including the written tradition established in Hawaiian-language newspapers prior to the U.S. overthrow, the kanaka maoli (native people) are at any moment kama'aina or malihini in relation to the ground on which they stand. The definitions of kama'aina, to "be born in a place, or to be a host" and "to be acquainted, familiar," are interconnected. Literally a "land child," the kama'aina knows the narratives of the land, the origins, locations, and respectful uses of its resources. The malihini is a stranger to that place and relies on kama'aina for guidance. In colonial Hawai'i, where Hawaiian concepts are daily appropriated and cheapened, kama'aina has come to mean "Hawai'i resident," so those paying state taxes are eligible for "kama'aina rates," such as discounts for car and hotel rentals.
The six essays in Storied Landscapes cast off from such colonial coinages and representational schemes, and steer toward an understanding of and respect for Hawaiian meanings and priorities. Whether appreciating the orders, balances, and depth of reference in Hawaiian orature (as in "He Mele No Kane: A Song of Life"), or juxtaposing colonial and indigenous stones to reveal racist epistemologies of the former (as in "A Twisted Tale: Jack London's 'Koolau the Leper'” and "Killing the Cannibal King"), the book asserts that attentiveness to the stones living in landscapes is one element of decolonizing ones thinking. Here it must be stressed that while Kawaharada implicitly allies the reorienting of personal and communal values by non-natives like himself with the struggle of the kanaka maoli for political sovereignty, he does not conflate them.
Naming and em-placing are a basic feature of indigenous storytelling, and ways in which geological features may be steeped in value-laden stories have been elaborated in a variety of contexts. Leslie Marmon Silkos essays on land and Pueblo imagination and Bruce Chatwin’s on aboriginal "songlines” delineate geography as land scored with myth, history, and collective knowledge, or of every storied landscape as a "map for survival" (34). Kawaharada works in this grain. His retellings of stories emphasize the vitality and nuance of place reference in Hawaiian expressive traditions. His commentary details ways in which chants and stories provide insights into history, geography, religion, and ethics that speak to contemporary situations. The stories in "Voyaging Chiefs of Kaneohe Bay," for Instance, emphasize how every voyage of the Hokule'a, which first sailed from Kane'ohe Bay in 1975, has been "a reenactment" (48) of legendary navigational feats made by ali'i (chief) to recapture mana (power). The stories about ancestral gods-such as the mo'o (large lizard), pueo (Hawaiian owl), and mana (shark) that Kawaharada presents in "'Aumakua of Kona, O'ahu” have both etiological and allegorical valences, containing warnings about dependency on outsiders and disobedience toward kupuna (wise elders).
"A Search for Ku'ula-kai: which opens the collectlon, stresses traditional concerns with conserving and managing resources. Kawaharadas reading of the story of the deification of Ku'ula-kai, a fisheman famous for his mana in attracting fish, leads into discussions of Hawaiian fishing methods, the origins of fishing stones and construction of fishponds, the formalization of distributing catches, and reflections on community building and leadership. Greed is punished within the various versions of the stones; an ali'i who refuses to share his catch has his canoe so loaded down ",ith fish that it swamps; another chokes on a hinalea (wrasse fish).
Kawaharada layers his presentation of such stories with personal and general history, and blunt critiques of institutions that engineer cultural estrangement and forgetting. "A Search" performs a journey of consciousness that begins with personal interest in fishing traditions (Kawaharada’s father was a fisherman). Kawaharada receives guidance from a friends passing along of the Ku'ulakai story, which finally leads him back to Hana, Maui, where he hopes to find "sites associated with the traditions of this fishing god" (7). The process stirs up memories of family mps to Hana that broaden into recognitions. In retrospect, his family seem "third-generation tourists […] ignorant of the stories associated with the landscape," in part because "not a single traditional Hawaiian story had been required reading" (5) in the schools they attended in Hawai'i. The fact raises questions about knowledge, how and by whom it is constituted, and what versions of the world the young are taught or not taught.
In a rock formation at Leo'ula, Kawaharada does find the backbone of the puhi (an eel slain by Ku'ula-kais son, 'Ai'ai) , only now he regards it with "a different set of eyes, a different vision, based on a knowledge of stories that people the landscape "with ancient Spirits" (7). Such "different vision" includes alternative ways of looking at and locating myth and legend, and testifies to the ongoing power of names and stories to move those open to learning toward a different relation to the land. It polemicizes as well the implications of non-natives and natives alike not being kama'aina --in the sense of familiar, knowledgeable--about Hawaiian meanings. Implicitly, Kawaharada argues that it is irresponsible for immigrant settlers "to claim to know, to be part of, to dwell comfomtably in a place" without learning about and honoring the "ancestral spirits and traditions" of the land (5). Part of Kawaharadas project in a senes of edited collections--including Hawaiian Fishing Legends, Nanaue the Shark God and Other Hawaiian Shark Stories, and Voyaging Chiefs of Havai’i--has been to make Hawaiian stories available, affordable, and more accessible in compact editions that include notes, maps, and glossaries. The essays in Storied Landscapes, conjoining the lyrical, personal, critical, and scholarly in their readings, bring the collected stories (and others) together within a broader tradition. The commentary claims no authority over Hawaiian materials, but draws heavily on prior scholarship (and provides ample bibliography along with glossaries and maps for each essay). The concentration of detail makes the essays demanding, but their insights will travel well. This is in large part because Kawaharada's interest in storied landscapes does not proceed from escapist geopiety or antiquarian folkloristics, but from an ethical dedication to the values traditional stories can perpetuate in the contemporary world.
Paul Lyons University of Hawai'i, Manoa