HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Celebrations are starting on the Big Island for the 49th annual Merrie Monarch festival.
Organizers carved out space at Hilo's civic auditorium for an ongoing project, called 'Ike ku'oko'a, that perpetuates the Hawaiian language. Even if you can't get to the Big Island this week, there's still a way you can participate.
We visited a typing social hour, of sorts, in Honolulu - where volunteers let their fingers do the walking - and talking –in Hawaiian. "We'll end up with 60,000 pages of typescript which will equal 600,000 pages of text," explains one of the project directors, Puakea Nogelmeier. "This is a resource unparalleled."
The 'Ike ku'oko'a project aims to transfer dozens of historic, Hawaiian-language newspapers onto a computer database. Volunteers type the articles, verbatim, onto a special program created specifically for the project. Linguist Dion Poche is one of 3,500 volunteers. She says, "It's necessary, and I regret that it's being done so late in the game. I wish that this had been done ages ago, decades ago."
They still need thousands more typists to meet the July deadline. Merrie Monarch festival organizers feel the project adds so much to the Hawaiian language that they've set aside the civic auditorium lobby - through Saturday - for anyone to come in and type. Just bring a laptop. For those not at the civic auditorium, all you need is access to a computer and internet. Hawaiian language skills are not required.
Word even spread internationally, and folks from Auckland to Amsterdam are pounding away at the keyboard. Hartwig Hermann dances in a halau in Berlin. He typed pages back home but wanted to join in while on vacation here. He says, "We are also interested in Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian language because we have to chant."
The history lessons are invaluable. Volunteers uncovered one article about the legislature banning fireworks - in 1874! Nogelmeier says, "I never knew that there was an argument about the legalization of fireworks here. That's very contemporary for us today, and it was 140 years ago that they were having the same issues."
The project invites everyone - schools, civic groups, halau, and history buffs - to get involved. For more information on how to volunteer as a typist, check out awaiaulu.org.