New Cultural Centre at Outrigger Reef in Waikiki Showcases Hawaiian Cultural Heritage to Visitors
Outrigger’s partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Bishop Museum, artists Kamea Hadar, Marques Hanalei Marzan and others shows the archipelago’s rich culture in a contemporary manner
(Honolulu April 12, 2022) Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort has unveiled its new A’o Cultural Center and a renewed commitment to Hawaiian heritage as part of its US$80 million transformation, which is nearly complete.
The A’o Cultural Center at the lobby level features a collection of art pieces such as a model outrigger canoe, paddles, conch shells and traditional feather lei. The adjacent Herb Kane Lounge has also been updated with a new open-concept design and a conceptual woven map of the Hawaiian Islands by renowned rope artist Marques Hanalei Marzan.
“Both the lounge and cultural centre are places where guests can begin to make meaningful connections with some of the most profound aspects of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance,” said Markus Krebs, general manager of the property.
At the centre, guests can find out about Outrigger’s long standing partnerships with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and the Friends of Hōkūle‘a and Hawaiiloa, a non-profit dedicated to the perpetuation of Hawaiian canoe building traditions.
“The centre also serves as a new place from which to explore the property’s newest artistic features and original works created by cultural practitioners who are on the leading edge of contemporary Hawaiian art and design,” said Krebs.
For example, the centre features a virtual exhibit designed by digital artist Kari Kēhau Noe picturing the legendary sailing canoe Hōkūle‘a. Through immersive projection, visitors are given the impression that the model of Hōkūle‘a is sailing on moving seas. As the canoe sails, various elements of the art of Polynesian navigation are highlighted, providing an engaging and educational experience.
The sail of the canoe model is made from pieces of the actual sail 32A that Hōkūle‘a used on its worldwide voyage 2013-2017. A model of the sailing canoe Hawaiiloa, which was expertly restored by artist Ka‘ili Chun, is at the centre on loan from Friends of Hōkūle‘a and Hawaiiloa.
“The Aʻo Cultural Center exhibits show the genius of Polynesian wayfinding for visitors to the Outrigger,” said the society’s CEO and world navigator Nainoa Thompson. “It is part of Outrigger’s support of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and our mission.”
In 1975 Hawaii’s first voyaging canoe in 600 years, Hōkūleʻa, launched into the waters off Oʻahu island, realising a dream long-held by the society’s co-founder Herb Kawainui Kāne.
“Today, the rebirth of the Herb Kāne Lounge and Aʻo Cultural Center at Outrigger Reef is a fitting tribute to Hawaii’s rich voyaging past and its bright future,” said Thompson.
The cultural centre will also serve as the hub for guests to engage in a spectrum of Hawaiian cultural activities. Led by Outrigger’s veteran cultural director Luana Maitland (pictured above), hotel guests will be able to glean from her vast knowledge of the arts of Hawaii and participate in hula lessons, try their hand at Hawaii’s official instrument, the ukulele and make a lei or kukui nut kupe‘e bracelet, and more.
The resort has also resumed its quarterly O Ke Kai – “Of the Sea” – series with the Friends of Hōkūleʻa and Hawaiiloa. These gatherings will be a unique opportunity for guests to meet navigators and canoe builders, hear storytelling and enjoy hands-on demonstrations of traditional tools and artefacts.
Through the Past is the Future – a Mural by Kamea Hadar
Adjacent to the cultural centre is an original mural by Hawaii artist Kamea Hadar (pictured above). Known for his large-scale portraiture, Hadar’s piece I Ka Wa Ma Mua, Ka Wa Ma Hope (Through the Past is the Future), depicts a traditional wa‘a, or sailing canoe, being crewed by children.
The next generation depicted are children of influential Hawaiian figures of the last century, including Hana Kakinami, great-granddaughter of Native Hawaiian writer, poet and cultural historian John Dominis Holt IV; La‘iku Blankenfeld, the grandson of PVS navigator Bruce Blankenfeld; Steel Scott, the great-grandson of Elmer Scott, who founded Scott Hawaii in 1932; and Kawena Kamakawiwo‘ole, the grand-niece of the great musician and songwriter Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. Hadar’s own daughter, Nova Hadar, is also pictured at the steering paddle of the wa‘a.
“We as parents and elders do not yet know where our keiki [children] will arrive or even the nature of the canoe they will be sailing, but we do know that like in a wa‘a the next generation are all in this together,” said Hadar. “This mural illustrates this traditional, yet forward-looking perspective.”
The legacy of the late artist, historian and founding member of PVS, Herb Kawainui Kāne, has been featured throughout the resort for decades and has now taken on new life in the renovated Herb Kāne Lounge, featuring earth-tone textures and an updated, modern design. The lounge includes four original paintings from Kāne and faces an expansive mural of a traditional sailing canoe that runs the length of the check-in desk.
A unique work by fibre artist Marques Hanalei Marzan is also featured in the lounge. The sprawling piece called Eia Hawaiʻi, He Moku, He Kānaka (Here is Hawaii, an island, a people), is an intricate woven sculpture of the Hawaiian Islands that stretches across the lounge.
It speaks to the interconnectivity of communities across Hawaii. It also recognises the ancestral ties and enduring relationships to Oceania. The work is inspired by Marshall Islands navigational stick charts which were used to teach oceanic seafaring practices and the knot-making skills of Hawaii.
True to the Outrigger name, the hotel’s connection to the ocean and care for the marine environment is incorporated in many layers. Upon arrival, visitors walk through the iconic canoe hale entrance. There, guests encounter Kalele: a 100-year-old outrigger canoe restored by the Friends of Hōkūleʻa & Hawaiiloa. A stone pathway carved with Hawaiian phrases will then lead guests alongside a bubbling waterway – symbolic for the life-giving streams and springs that Waikiki was named after.
In keeping with Outrigger’s commitment to ocean and reef conservation, the hotel also partnered with marine scientist and artist Ethan Estess. His sustainable sculpture Coming Home, which stands prominently at the resort’s entrance, is a partnership with Hawaii Pacific University’s Center for Marine Debris Research. Estess collected mounds of discarded fishing nets that were repurposed into this colourful mural of Diamond Head, which is to inspire individuals to be more sustainable and consume less single-use plastics.
As an embodiment of Outrigger’s commitment to conservation efforts through Outrigger’s ZONE (OZONE), US$3,000 was donated to The Center for Marine Debris Research, after the mural was unveiled.
Outrigger also worked with the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum to curate art pieces in the guest rooms and throughout the resort that honour Hawaii’s past and lend a residential feel to the property.
The first phase of Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort’s US$80 million transformation was completed in April 2021. It included renovated guestrooms and the reimagined Kani Ka Pila Grille restaurant. The second phase of the property, including the Diamond Head Tower, Waiola Wellness Wing and Coral Kids Club is slated to be complete by autumn 2022. The anchor restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, is expected to open by the end of 2022.
Malama Hawaii Ecotourism Option
To take the Hawaiian experience outdoors, Outrigger has added an ecotourism option for guests visiting Hawaii by participating in the “Malama Hawaii” campaign, an initiative of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB).
Malama in the Hawaiian language means "to take care".
By booking Outrigger’s “Malama Hawaii Experience,” guests can participate in a hands-on, two-hour voluntourism activity at Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve a 45-minute drive from Waikiki.
On the trip, guests immerse themselves in community service and cultural learning, including the importance of caring for the upland ʻahupuaʻa streams as they feed the loʻi down the valley.
Guests who book the Malama Hawaii Experience receive every third night free when staying at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger or Waikiki Malia by Outrigger.
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