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Palau, Host of the 9th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture 

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published on November 10, 1877, as seen online (digitized from microfilm copy).

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

This week’s post was contributed by team member, Kapaiaʻala Earle. Today we honor Palau or Belau which, in 2004, became the 9th nation to host the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture, under the theme, “Oltobed a Malt – Nurture, Regenerate, Celebrate.” Belau is known as global leader in marine conservation.

The Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture is the world’s largest celebration of Indigenous Pacific Islanders, bringing together artists, cultural practitioners, scholars, and officials from member nations of the Pacific Community (SPC).

This traveling festival is held every four years and was first launched by the South Pacific Commission in 1972 to halt the erosion of traditional practices through ongoing cultural exchange. In June of 2024, Hawaiʻi will host the 13th festival on Oʻahu.

Over the months, we have been honoring each of the previous FestPAC hosts with posts featuring those island nations and their connections to Hawaiʻi’s own history.

This week we feature the mentioning of Palau in an article translated into Hawaiian in Ka Nupepa Kuokoa from an English newspaper, Richwood Gazette, relating to kissing in greetings. Throughout the different cultures around the world, each hold unique customs and etiquette for greeting one another. It is said by this writer that in Palau they would greet each other through the grasping of their feet in friendship.

While we could not find many culturally related articles about Palau in the Hawaiian language newspapers, a good number of efforts documenting Palauan accounts, experiences, and language remain. A handwritten manuscript of Palauan to English vocabulary exists but sadly its source and much information about it are unknown. One of the earliest known written works comes from Henry Wilson, a British naval captain who arrived in Palau in the 1780s when his ship, the Antelope was shipwrecked. During his stay in Palau, he composed journals and accounts of his time that included a Palauan to English vocabulary. Later in the 1790s, the East India Company sent vessels to Palau to gather information, resulting in supplements to Wilson’s work that were later printed in 1803.

Decades later, a man by the name of Andrew Cheyne voyaged through the Western Pacific in the 1840s in search of fortune through trading. Throughout his journey in the Pacific, he composed a collection of vocabularies, manners, and customs of various native peoples, including the Palauan people.

Image: “No ka honi aloha ana,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, November 10, 1877, p. 1, as seen online (digitized from microfilm copy).

Customs of Kissing.

All around European continent, excluding England, when people are friends to one another, they kiss one another, however, in Britain and the United States, it is only the women that display this type of kissing greeting to their friends, if they are friendly with the one they are kissing or perhaps an enemy.

In the islands of the Pacific, greetings are made by the rubbing of noses of one to another, just like how when two young horses meet by touching noses, and the sentiments are returned to the friend in engaging the hands with them and exchanged with the noses and mouth with the lips.

In the islands of Palau, they are accustomed to grasping the foot in friendship, and that is how they show sentiments; and in Burma, they do it in a revered way, each person places their mouth and nose touching the cheeks of another, and draw their breath in, as if they are inhaling a fragrance, and reply, “Do not give me a kiss, but give me fragrance.”

However, the way people greet comes as a gift from the generous heart towards a friend, and it is an initial sign that they will show behavior no matter what the result is.

Kissing can be a grand or tiny matter, depending on the one doing it at the time and his intent and actions. There is no condemnation for one who kisses their mother-in-law, just as one that vows to the truth, he kisses the Bible in court. However, it is not by telling this that one should kiss their mother-in-law, but it is something they can do if they know however that it is moral. At the same time, when one kisses their grandmothers, or their loved ones, one must keep straight with humility.

He kisses many of his female acquaintances, the woman carrying his first child, and hw kisses the one to whom he is engaged; but it is here let’s take a short break from the list of those he kisses.

He cannot just kiss the one he loves; it is only when he decides to marry her, and it is consented to. Some beautiful women are without parents, if she kisses her cat, she gives her boundaries up to the man with the gift on her lips that is greater than gold.

Between those who are courting, it is a splendid thing to kiss, it is a belief that has been concealed, it is a wonderous aspect, and if we are to accurately understand this, the blood of the new, it is a river that streams with clarity, when the two meet with each other, the beautiful features of their cheeks are concealed between each other.

Those of this world have allowed kissing to go at a low cost, whereas when looking at it, it is received only in the doing, however, it is not valuable to store away; so, girls, if you feel like kissing, you may kiss, but be careful what you are doing, give the greatest praises to the one approved for you only.

Image:  People of Peleliu, Palau ca 1936. Photo by S. Kondo, Bishop Museum Archives, SP 18846

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Image:  Manuscript, Vocabulary – Pelew Islands (Source unknown), cover page.

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Image:  Manuscript, Vocabulary – Pelew Islands (Source unknown), p 1.

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Image: George Keate, An Account of the Pelew Islands, 1789, London, The Fourth Edition, Printed for Captain Henry Wilson, p. 395.

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Image: W. Bulmer & Co. Cleveland Row, A Supplement to the Account of the Pelew Islands, 1803, London, Printed for Captain Henry Wilson, p. 65.

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Image: Andrew Cheyne, A Description of Islands in the Western Pacific Ocean, North and South of the Equator: With Sailing Directions, 1852, London, J. D. Potter, p. 196.

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This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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