Posts Tagged "kava culture"

Kava Clubs Preserving Tongan Culture!

Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Kava News | 0 comments

Kava Clubs Preserving Tongan Culture!

Aloha, dear readers, and welcome to what I hope will be another wonderful year of kava-related stories! I’ve gushed many times about the power of kava to strengthen community and family bonds and make strangers into friends over the kava bowl. Recently, my belief in the power of kava was directly vindicated by a study from the Auckland University of Technology which demonstrated that faikava (“kava clubs” in Tongan) have become a locus for preserving Tongan language and culture in the modern age! Conducted by master’s student Edmund Fehoko (who is of Tongan descent), the study surveyed young Tongan men between the ages of 16 and 30 in New Zealand who regularly attended faikava, traditional men-only kava clubs. Fehoko said he focused on Tongan youth’s faikava attendance because there had been little research done on younger generations’ experience with the tradition. Faikava have been in operation in New Zealand since the early days of Tongan immigration, and each one is affiliated with a specific village back in Tonga. To make what could be quite a long story short, Fehoko found that young Tongan men who regularly attended faikava sessions reported feeling a stronger sense of cultural identity, and were also less likely to join gangs or use drugs and alcohol. I’ve always thought a strong sense of cultural belonging is essential in encouraging young people onto healthy pathways, and Fehoko’s groundbreaking study certainly seems to vindicate that! He described faikava as cultural classrooms where the Tongan language is passed on in proverbs, songs, and casual discussions on a variety of topics—all accompanied by liberal bowls of kava, of course! In passing on the Tongan language, the older male generation is also passing along cultural knowledge to its sons, and with that, a stronger sense of cultural identity and filial ties. Of his own introduction to faikava at age 14, Fehoko said, “at first I didn’t want to go and sit around listening to other people talk, but I soon started learning new words and realized how important my language and culture were.” Yet this cultural institution isn’t without issues, particularly when it comes to the role of women. Fehoko noted that faikava are traditionally men-only; women serve the kava (considered a great honor), but aren’t allowed to participate in the sessions themselves. Along with noting that this makes women’s perspectives on faikava a promising area for further study, in a recent interview Fehoko stressed the need to establish safe spaces where young Tongan women could engage with their culture. In researching this article, I also discovered that the gender divide enforced in faikava can have political dimensions: Mele Amanaki, an unsucessful female candidate in Tonga’s last election, has recently called for more scrutiny into Tonga’s campaign spending laws—specifically those around how much money candidates should be allowed to donate to faikava. Ms. Amanaki justly pointed out that male candidates may otherwise have an unfair advantage because they can mingle with potential supporters and donors at men-only faikava, which female candidates have limited access to. I wholeheartedly support making the faikava tradition more inclusive, so that all young Tongans can experience their rich cultural heritage in a supportive space! After all, the framework of faikava has been and remains a huge part of Tongan identity, one that Fehoko believes has helped New Zealand Tongans avoid some of the pitfalls with inappropriate use of kava that have troubled aboriginal populations in Australia’s Arnhem Land. Having an appropriate cultural framework for kava use is very important; when done wisely, kava drinking further strengthens South Pacific family and community structures. For Tongan immigrants...

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UFO Landing Pad Officially Opens in Hawaii!

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Kava News | 0 comments

UFO Landing Pad Officially Opens in Hawaii!

I know what you’re all thinking—what the heck does this story have to do with kava kava? Truthfully, I may be stretching convention a bit by calling this “kava news”, but it’s such a quirky, fun story that I couldn’t resist! More to the point, guess where this new UFO landing pad has just opened? Right across the street from Uncle Robert’s Kava Bar in Kalapana on the Big Island of Hawaii!! Ahem. Lest I sound too much like a giddy “New Ager”, allow me to back up and explain exactly what the story is behind this remarkable headline. On June 27th, 2014, locals in this town in the Puna region of Hawaii held an official dedication ceremony to open the Hawaii Star Visitor Sanctuary to any and all extraterrestrials interested in visiting Earth. Unofficially known simply as a UFO landing pad, the site is an 80-foot wide natural lava pillow just across the street from our aforementioned kava bar. During the ceremony, official representatives of the reinstated Kingdom of Hawaii, including Robert Keliihoomalu (Uncle Robert) himself, announced their intention to establish the Star Visitor Sanctuary as internationally neutral ground where “star visitors” wanting to visit Earth will be welcome to land! Now, I didn’t know this, but there are actually two other such UFO landing pads on Earth—one in St. Paul, Alberta, built in 1967, and the other in Lake City, Pennsylvania, built in 1976. The one in Hawaii takes advantage of our nation’s long history of political neutrality, as well as our right to sovereignty and self determination, which was officially acknowledged by the United States in 1993. In other words, it is the sovereign right of the Kingdom of Hawaii to welcome foreign visitors to neutral ground, including any curious visitors that might come from space! Commenting on the ceremony, Garry Hoffeld, assistant to Robert Keliihoomalu, encouraged people to keep an open mind about the possibility of visitors from space: “It’s potentially controversial—it’s… funny to some, stupid to others. We’re not crazy, we’re open minded. Uncle Robert calls [extraterrestrials] our friends and brothers”. Indeed, I couldn’t help but recall our people’s legend that the original Hawaiians descended to Earth from the stars in the constellation Na Huihui o Makali’i, or the Pleiades/Seven Sisters! For those of you interested in learning more, I’ve posted the full half-hour dedication ceremony at Kalapana below this article. Though I couldn’t tell for sure from the footage, I hope the ceremony involved pouring cleansing libations of kava kava over the landing pad! In any case, the video is worth watching if for no other reason than to see the beautiful shrine the people of Kalapana placed at the center of the Star Visitor Sanctuary. And what did the organizers choose as the symbol of peace and harmony with which to reach out to interstellar visitors? A gorgeously realized kava leaf!! I’m still so touched that this traditional symbol of community, harmony and solidarity made it into the sanctuary’s centerpiece. If star visitors ever do descend to Earth—and I hope they do someday!—I’d love to offer them a bowl of kava along with the wishes of all Earth people for a harmonious and peaceful connection. REFERENCES 1. UFO landing pad officially opens in the hope of attracting extraterrestrials to Earth”. July 4th, 2014. Mirror UK. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/ufo-landing-pad-officially-opens-3810822. 2. Salla, Michael. “It’s official: extraterrestrials can now land at Hawaii UFO Sanctuary”. Exopolitics.org. June 30th, 2014....

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Cultural Uses of Pepper Plants

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in The Mind of Makaira | 0 comments

Cultural Uses of Pepper Plants

Aloha everyone, and I hope this post finds you well! It’s a hot, dry midsummer in Hawaii, and as always, I’m grateful to have plenty of quenching ‘awa on hand to refresh me after a hard day of work on the farm! Long-time visitors to this blog know that besides all things kava, one of my foremost passions is reading and research; I still take every opportunity to educate myself on the history, botany and culture surrounding this wonderful plant and its origins. One thing that’s been on my mind recently is the connection between kava and its botanical relatives in the pepper genus, Piper. No species of plant or animal exists in a vaccum of course, and kava is no exception: there are over 2,000 species of peppers scattered around tropical areas of the world, including possibly the most popular spice of all time, black pepper. So I got to wondering: are there other pepper species with cultural uses as broad and significant as those of kava? The answer took me on a fascinating journey into South and Southeast Asia, where peppers have found their way into food, medicine and social settings for hundreds of years! First of all, it’s important to establish what kinds of peppers we’re talking about. I’m writing about peppers that belong to the genus Piper, not the hot chili peppers from the Americas, which are grouped under the genus Capsicum. Although the two genii are related and both have medicinal and cultural uses, I wanted to only look at species closely related to kava kava—otherwise I could literally end up writing a book rather than an article! All right then: Piper is a genus of climbing vines found in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. Pepper vines usually have heart-shaped evergreen leaves and may bear fruit or flowers, although kava is sterile and can be propagated only with human help. Also interesting, while we harvest kava for her wonderful roots, most pepper species are valued for their fruits or occasionally for their leaves. Black pepper, the most popular condiment in the world, is made from the dried and ground fruits of Piper nigrum, the black pepper vine. Piper nigrum: Those of you who go out of your way to buy whole peppercorns probably know that although black pepper is the best known type of pepper, several different condiments can be made from Piper nigrum fruits. Black peppercorns consist of the whole dried fruit (the seed plus the outer skin), while white peppercorns have had the outer pericarp, or flesh, removed. Red and green peppers are also made by pickling the ripe or unripe pepper grain. Though it’s now ubiquitous, at one time pepper was so in demand and heavily tariffed in Europe that sneaky merchants would sometimes adulterate ground pepper with linseed, mustard, flour or sago. Some even traded fake peppercorns made out of oil and clay with a bit of cayenne added—yuck! Most people don’t think of black pepper as a health food, but research has shown that piperine—the compound in black pepper that gives it spice—increases the absorption of several nutrients from food, including vitamins A, C, and the B complex, selenium, beta-carotene, and curcumin. Black pepper has also been used directly as a stimulant and medicine for all sorts of digestive ailments, such as nausea, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, and dyspepsia. It’s thought that black pepper works to stimulate the digestive tract by acting as a mild irritant to those tissues, which is why pepper is eliminated from the diets of people about to undergo abdominal surgery. As...

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Kava Culture Sprouting into the Music Scene

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Kava News | 0 comments

Kava Culture Sprouting into the Music Scene

While this fun bit of information I’m about to share with you isn’t necessarily directly related to kava kava and all of its wonders – it is about Kava culture and culturally speaking anything related to Kava in some way is definitely worth sharing! And Kava culture is expanding its horizons it seems, as it dabbles its loving fingers into the mainstream music scene. Anyone who has indulged in Kava culture a little bit, or a lot, may be aware of the beautifully traditional Kava songs out of the Pacific Islands. These songs are quite relaxing and lovely to sit back and listen to while enjoying a cup of Kava. These songs are best classified as folk and are brimming with mythological lyrics, telling of the gods and deities that graced our planet with Piper methysticum, the beautiful plant that kava kava comes from. But, it hasn’t been until recently that Kava has eased its way into a more mainstream music scene outside of the Pacific Islands. I would like to introduce “The Kava Kings”, a ska and gypsy-inspired band out of Sydney, Australia’s southern beaches. Ska originated in Jamaica in the 1950’s and developed into a fast and upbeat forerunner of reggae. Later into the 1960’s ska was actually the most popular genre in Jamaica, and if you listen to a little bit of ska, you can certainly hear the laid back, at ease and happy vibe that Jamaica is known for [4]! Gypsy punk is an energetic combination of Romani music and punk rock [3]. So, there you have the eclectic foundations of The Kava Kings – certainly a concoction of sounds that can only allow for a good time – add some Kava drinking to that and the happy relaxation would be endless! On their Facebook page, The Kava Kings classify themselves as “Gypsy Surf Rock” and have pictures and posts detailing their many and ongoing adventures around Australia while touring, promoting their band and enjoying Kava [2]. The Bellingen Shire – Courier Sun recently ran an article about The Kava Kings. The article outlines the details of the band members – Chris, Daniel, James and Tom – coming together in friendship, music and Kava drinking. All members spent their teenage years attending the same high school, although during different years. And in 2010, the members came together over Kava, and a mutual love for fun and upbeat music. They’ve since been touring throughout Sydney, Australia and up and down the east coast of Australia [1]. Their music is upbeat and energetic in a way that certainly would bring Kava lovers and other sorts of lively people together. Kava culture is all about love, fun and relaxation – and this band certainly seems to emanate those qualities.   If you check out their Facebook page it’s full of lively pictures of the band members having a good time, posing while playing their tunes and just straight up enjoying life as it is meant to be enjoyed! You can check out their page for details about their upcoming tour dates – if you happen to be coasting through Australia and want to enjoy the evening with some fellow Kava enthusiasts.  Or, if you happen to be coasting through anywhere really, why not pack some Kava and check out the local Kava culture! As far as I know The Kava Kings are probably kava kava’s first début in the popular music scene. While The Kava Kings are fairly new, I love that they are spreading affection and appreciation for Kava, and hope that they meet with great success and fulfill all that they...

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2013: The Year in Kava!

Posted by on Jan 21, 2014 in Kava News | 0 comments

2013: The Year in Kava!

A big aloha to all of you readers out there in this new year of 2014! As we say goodbye to what was undoubtedly a tumultuous year worldwide in 2013, I thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the strides, both large and small, local and global, that my beloved kava has made in the public consciousness. What were the biggest news stories you discovered about kava in 2013? Please write me if something you were expecting doesn’t appear on this list; I always love to hear from our dear visitors! Now then, on to the year in kava! May 13th, 2013- The University of Melbourne released a study on the effectiveness of kava for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Those of you who know my respect for kava as a plant medicine can see why I just had to lead with this new study! Conducted by Jerome Sarris of the Department of Psychology at the University of Melbourne, and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, this study involved 75 people who had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The participants were given a pill containing either 120mg of kavalactone from a kava root extract or a placebo. The experimental and control groups each had their anxiety levels regularly assessed over 8 weeks. After the study period ended, the researchers’ results showed a statistically significant reduction in anxiety symptoms in the experimental group compared to the control: in fact, 26% of the subjects with moderate to severe GAD in the experimental group–those taking the kava extract–experienced remission of their anxiety symptoms, compared to 6% of the placebo group. An increase in women’s libido in the kava group was also reported, which I found interesting given kava’s history of use as an aphrodisiac in the South Pacific. Kava was well-tolerated in the experimental group, with no subjects showing any sign of liver damage, adverse reactions, addiction, or withdrawal symptoms after the treatment was stopped. Studies like this are really encouraging to me, especially this one, seeing as Australia has had contentious relations with kava in the past… so much that we’ve basically given up trying to ship our kava there for fear of it being seized by customs! Though this is a small study and more follow-up work definitely needs to be done, it’s still part of the heartening shift toward clinical investigation of the many possibilities of kava that my family has known about for generations! July 24th, 2013- The Kava King Brewery began operations out of Long Island City, New York: I’m always on the lookout for new developments in the ongoing kava diaspora from the sunny South Pacific to the rest of the world, and I was especially excited to discover this news story about a new grassroots kava beverage company operating out of Long Island City, a neighborhood of Queens in New York. Now, I’ve been to New York once or twice myself, and I can’t think of a better niche for this cooperative brewery to exploit in this busy metropolis! With flavors like lemon mint, ginger citrus, and tarragon, Kava King is aiming at making kava more palatable for the uninitiated—and I am all for efforts to ease newcomers into kava’s gentle embrace. Even better, the company will soon be offering a kava tea flavored with hibiscus, as well as unflavored kava teas under the name “Brooklyn Kava” for an even more authentic experience. Once Kava King becomes established, I’m sure these convenient kava teas will be taking the edge off city life for many grateful New...

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