Aug 30, 2012

Modernization and Indigenous Culture: Hula and Bon Odori

I'd like to write about the book "Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii" again.

In this book he wrote about hula as follows.

At night they feasted and the girls danced the lascivious hula-hula―a dance that is said to exhibit the very perfection of educated motion of limb and arm, hand, head, and body, and the exactest uniformity of movement and accuracy of "time." ...

Of late years, however, Saturday has lost most of its quondam gala features. This weekly stampede of the natives interfered too much with labor and the interest of white folks, and by sticking in a law here, and preaching a sermon there, and by various other means, they gradually broke it up. The demoralizing hula-hula was forbidden to be performed, save at night with closed doors, in presence of few spectators, and only by permission duly procured from the authorities and the payment of ten dollars for the same. There are few girls nowadays able to dance this ancient national dance in the highest perfection of the art.

Mark Twain wrote this article in 1866. He always sympathized with Hawaiian culture, but at the same time he described how it had been lost. Now, of course, hula is one of the symbols of Hawaiian culture and nobody would think of trying to prohibit it.

Hula isn't just an element of Hawaiian culture but it spread overseas. For example, there are a lot of amateur hula dances now in Japan . But in 1866, the situation in Hawaii was that "There are few girls nowadays able to dance this ancient national dance in the highest perfection of the art."

This article reminded me of an essay written by Torahiko Terada, who was a famous scientist and essayist born in 1878. He wrote about "Bon Odori" in 1933. Bon Odori is now a very popular dance performed in summer festivals, now.
I wrote about this essay in my Japanese weblog.

I'll try to translate his essay into English.

I saw Bon Odori in a lonely beachside village in Tosa around 1901 or 1902 by chance, and since then I've never seen it again. At that time, I remembered that such a thing was thought to be "a savage and shamful custom that we didn't want Western people watching" and they were prohibited to be performed openly.

I was really surprised to know the fact that Bon Odori used to be prohibited and that Torahiko Terada had seen it only once, because Bon Odori is so popular now that we can't even imagine the possibility of it being prohibited.

I found the 36th (!) Bon Odori Festival 2012 in Malaysia on the internet. Bon Odori isn't as popular as hula in the world, but at least it isn't thought to be "a savage and shameful custom."

Modernization is homogenizing the world, andbut indigenous culture maintains the diversity of the world. Mark Twain knew the importance ofindigenous culture in Hawaii, for example hula, in the middle of the 19th century.

No comments:

Post a Comment