Rain, in old Hawai‘i, was celebrated in its myriad forms, passing mists to drenching downpours, different in each village and valley. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa spoke with a scholar and kumu hula whose book on Hawaiian rain names opens new vistas in the natural world.
Find “Hānau Ka Ua, Hawaiian Rain Names,” by Colette Leimomi Akana with Kiele Gonzalez and illustrations by Sig Zane at your favorite bookseller, including Na Mea Hawai‘i/Native Books, Costco and Barnes and Noble. The book is published by Kamehameha Publishing.
Akana’s research encompasses winds and wind names as well, and a companion book, “Hānau Ka Makani,” is in the works. Akana and Gonzalez have recently been asked to do “Hānau ka Ua me ka Makani: Hawaiian Rains and Winds” presentations around the state. Currently they are scheduled on
Dec. 6 (Tuesday), 2016, 6:30 p.m. at Kapaa Public Library, Kauaʻi and Feb. 16 (Thursday), 2017, 6 p.m. at the Volcano Art Center, Niaulani Campus, Hawaiʻi Island. Plans are also in the works for a Lānaʻi presentation in January.
It was a breezy, drizzly morning when we met at the top of Kapalama heights. Actually, the weather was perfect for Collette Leimomi Akana, educator, kumu hula, and author of the new book, "Hānau ka Ua, Hawaiian Rain Names."
“We are experiencing the Kūkalahale rain. Two definitions we’ve found so far: Kū, would be stand. and Kalahale is the house eaves. So you’re standing under the house eaves because it doesn’t last too long. There’s another definition we found which is kūkala hale, which means the rain that announces itself to the homes. So yeah, it’s kinda of neat when we find various sources.”
This rain is coming from mauka, the mountains, in steady medium sized droplets, blowing through the ironwoods around us. Akana has been studying rain and winds in Hawai‘i for years, and her first book is called “Hānau Ka Ua,” Born is the Rain.
“Everything in the Hawaiian universe is hānau, born, and living.” Akana says royalty, the ali‘i, were born, so the wind, rain and clouds were born, even silence was born.
“I think when you have that idea that everything is alive, everything is living, then there is maybe a greater respect for the world around you because everything has a spirit, everything is living.”
Kiele Gonzalez, Akana’s daughter, is assisting with research. The two don’t actually count, but are sure Hilo has the most rain names, while on O‘ahu, Nuuanu leads the pack.
Gonzalez: “For our kūpuna, traditionally, knowledge of the land was highly valued and it was something you were proud of. So when malihini, when you had visitors come, they would talk about their ‘āina, their wahi pana, their famous places. They would talk about their rains, their winds, because it was something they treasured, it was something they valued. People were experts at this sort of knowledge.”
Proverbs, chants and legends helped preserve vital troves of knowledge like which rains accompany
planting, which rains mean certain fish are biting, which rains at sea mean dangerous conditions. And which rains can tease a lover, like the misty tuahine rain of manoa.
“Yesterday I got a call, and a man said he wanted to know the wind of Kalia in Waikīkī because he’s writing a song for someone who comes from that area. That gets us excited to know that people can actually use it today,” says Akana.
“Hānau Ka Ua” is basically a glossary of Hawaiian rain names, with associated notations on what the rain is like, where it is found, and more, when available. Hawaiian language newspapers are a primary source for much of the information. Designer Sig Zane has contributed signature floral motifs on vellum that add bursts of color throughout the book. His notes on the illustrations contain personal reflections and associations related to the images. The elder Zane collaborated with his son, designer Kuha’o Zane, for the cover of the new book, which was designed by noted book designer Barbara Pope.
Gonzalez: “The cool thing about having it organized by rain names is you actually get to compare how the rain acts in its characteristics in different places. For instance, the ‘Apuakea rain is so famous to Koolaupoko on O‘ahu, but you find the ‘Apuakea also exists in Hāna Maui, also in Hilo, Hawai‘i.”
Noticing rain and wind makes us more “kilo,” observant, in our environment.
“People are looking to find their place in society, in the world and here at home in Hawai‘i. It’s just rebuilding those connections and realizations and having a relationship with the ‘āina that you call home. It is something special that I think we, living in Hawai‘i, have an opportunity to tap into and to be a part of.” That relationship, Gonzales says, can start right now, if you’re observant.
Akana: “To our kūpuna, the winds and rains were more than just elements. They had a familial connection to them. There are so many chants and songs that talk about these winds and rains by name, and the connection our kūpuna had with them. For example there’s a short paragraph we found in a Hawaiian newspaper saying that the Kanilehua rain “raised the girl,” actually raised the girl, so again, the really close connection our kūpuna had with the wind and rains.”
Gonzalez and Akana hope someday people will know their home winds and rains well enough to identify with them. They introduced themselves as Leimomi Akana, from Hālawa, of the Moae wind and the Waahila rain; and Kiele Gonzalez, from Kāne‘ohe of the ‘Apuakea rain and ‘Aoa winds.