HonuaOla

This weekend I attended an event called HonuaOla*, subtitled “Earth, life, and all things sacred”. When I tried to describe it to my husband and friends before I went, I had a hard time, even though I’d read some publicity on it. My description sounded vague and new-agey, and didn’t explain why it seemed compelling to me. But after reflecting on it afterward, and reading more about it on their website, I felt they’d been remarkably successful in conveying a single message through many voices and media, and that that was part of their message. We are diverse, and each have to craft our own journey through life, take action, celebrate life, and support others in their journeys. This sounds cliche, but experiencing it was profound.

The organizers requested that each attendee fill out a survey. I did, but felt my brief response was superficial and didn’t capture the depth of the event’s impact on me. This post addresses my need for a more thoughtful response.

The event was very well organized. The presenters and performers were excellent, and it was professionally run. The location, the Maui campus of Kamehameha Schools, was stunning. I liked the main stage format, with its variety and liveliness, and the separate panel discussions, which went into more depth, but again from multiple perspectives.

On the main stage, short performances and lectures alternated, a format which worked well. I’ve been to similar events, such as Bumbershoot in Seattle, where the genres are segregated. This may be due to the vastly different scale of the two events, but for HonuaOla created serendipitous reinforcement of their theme, as, looking through the schedule, one might have identified some particular draws, and then found interesting parallels or new ideas while sitting through a couple performances they might not otherwise have chosen.

One aspect that didn’t feel as well integrated, though, was the “non-profit row”. Various non-profit groups had tables set up in the shade of buildings surrounding the quadrangle between the stage and the panel discussion building. It felt like a type of ghetto, segregated: one had to have a reason to go there, and then felt trapped. If they were trying to reach people who weren’t already familiar with or sympathetic to them, they needed a way to interact with them, to draw them in. Maybe each could have a slot on the speaking/performance schedule, or just a teaser in the announcements between acts, like when a puppy was featured from the Humane Society. Another way to improve the already excellent event would be to offer more ways for the attendees to interact with the presenters, like associated short workshops or seminars, to make connections with each other and the presenter, and put their learning into action – which was one of the main messages of the event.

* In the Hawaiian language, Honua = earth, Ola = life