Hawaiian culture is rich in history. But, the islands are no longer isolated as the internet, travelers, and migration bring natives and visitors to and from Hawaiian paradise. On the vastly popular and idyllic island of Maui, three Hawaiian natives put passion and love for their culture into their daily lives as cultural ambassadors. Montage Kapalua Bay is fortunate to have one of these three guardians of Hawaiian culture in-house as their Cultural Ambassador. Silla Kaina sat down with Ocean Home magazine to share her love for Hawaiian culture, why preserving and sharing island life with visitors is important to her, and how it feels to be able to make culture dissemination her career.
MG: When did you first understand that your culture was unique from the mainland?
SK: The culture has always really been unique. I grew up in it so I didn’t really know anything different. When I was 15 years old I had the opportunity to go to the mainland to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade and that was when I realized how special our culture truly is and the value of that experience shed light on my life and would influence who I have become.
MG: Tell me a little about yourself and your family.
SK: I was born and raised in the Honokahua area which is now known as Kapalua Resort. I am one of six children and who grew up in the pineapple plantation in this area.
MG: What is your most beloved family tradition?
SK: Pule ohana (family prayers) and family gatherings.
MG: Who was your biggest cultural teacher and influencer?
SK: My grandmother was a big influence for me. She taught us the Hawaiian language in our home but we could not speak it in public because it was forbidden. She knew it was important for us to know our language and carry on our traditions. My hula teacher was also a big influence for me. She taught us about sharing our stories through the hula.
MG: What is your favorite cultural experience offered at Montage Kapalua?
SK: I can’t really say I have a favorite. I love them all. The experiences are alive and being shared and taught so our culture is being carried on and this makes me very grateful.
MG: While visiting, we made leis together. You’re a natural teacher (the results of our efforts are pictured here). Can you please share the meaning behind lei making and presentation and why they are important to Hawaiian culture.
SK: In old Hawaii, the native plants have a spirit or essence and when worn that essences becomes part of the person wearing the lei. Today, the lei is a gift given as a symbol of Aloha.
MG: Hula shares stories. Do all islanders understand hula and the meaning behind the moves?
SK: No, not all islanders understand hula. For many years our culture was banned and therefore almost lost. Today, Hawaii is very multi-cultural and therefore those who understand the traditions have been born, raised, or have been given the knowledge to continue in protocol of the hula.
MG: Why is sharing Hawaiian culture with visitors to Montage important to you? What do you love most about this opportunity?
SK: It is important for me that people learn the real way of the Hawaiian life. We have a deep sense of connection with everything from the different elements where you will find our stories of our deities to natural patterns as seen in hula which tells our history. For me, it is important people identify with the deeper sense of Hawaii and Montage Kapalua Bay has given me an opportunity to share this rich sense of place with people.
MG: What do you want visitors to know about your culture?
SK: The spirit of Aloha is alive. When guests visit and feel the Aloha it is contagious, they carry it with them and never forget it. I want them to know that the Aloha is innate and that they have it in them and can share it wherever they go in this world.
MG: If you could recommend only two cultural experiences to Montage guests what would they be?
SK: I would recommend a lei making lesson or a hula lesson.
MG: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
SK: Just hang loose and be nalu (go with the flow). Don’t be afraid to try to the hula, lei making, and ukulele.
Image Credits: Montage Kapalua Bay.