Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort unveils its new culture centre with US$80 million transformation

 Monday, April 11, 2022 

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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.

Luana Maitland“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.

Kamea HadarThrough 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 right). 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.”

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