When naming films, buildings and products with Hawaiian names, there’s a fine line between celebrating a cultural story and appropriating the culture’s heritage. With naming of the Shaka film, we’ve been keenly aware of the subject, so assembled a wide array of cultural experts and consultants to advise us on what’s pono and appropriate.

Using Hawaiian Culture Words

In our quest, we found that the Shaka is a multi-cultural story, originating in Hawaiian / Mormon La‘ie and including Japanese and global surf community additive layers. In fact, we found that the word “Shaka” is not a Hawaiian word, but rather birthed on Hawaiian plantations by Japanese and Okinawan workers who derived if from the Shakyamuni Buddha in Nara, Japan. Thus the word “Shaka” doesn’t fall into the area of cultural appropriation. However, other Hawaiian words were considered in candidates for the picture’s name, so we made sure to pas these by cultural consultants for a ruling. Candidates included:

  • “Shaka, the Power of Mana”: “Mana” is the Hawaiian word for personal power. It’s also a word play on the original Shaka Man’s name, “Hamana.” This name was rejected as a potential cultural appropriation risk due to it being clearly Hawaiian.
  • “Shaka, the Power of Positivity”: The word “Positivity” is a clear moral of the story and showed up as one of the most commonly used words by interviewees when describing the Shaka and the hero of the story, Hamana Kalili. Further, one of our goals as a documentary product is to communicate an essential learning as a value to viewers. This name was eventually rejected in favor of the candidate below.
  • “Shaka, the Power of Aloha”: “Aloha”, while from Hawaiian language descent, was considered by our cultural consultants to be so common in the world that it’s a public domain word for all to use. We were very happy to hear this as the Shaka is a physicalized version of “Aloha” which is an intellectual concept. It really matches the meaning of the Shaka and it’s a message that the world needs to hear.

The Kumu Speak

Kamehameha Schools, our primary funders for this project, has also supplied cultural experts to help safeguard the stories and ensure accuracy. Huge mahalo to Lauren Nahme of KS for making all this happen. Excerpts from the Kumu include:

  • Kumu Robert “Lono” Ikuewa: “Shaka, the Power of Aloha” from my cultural lens, is not only appropriate but also feels right. Kupono… the principle of kupono is being applied to our reasoning to make sure it stands the test of being pono… This is my humble kenikeni!..”
  • Kumu Kaimana Barcarse: ” ʻAe, kakoʻo nō!  I think this is a good option from our perspectives. There may be some who have a stronger opinion on the word aloha and what they perceive it should mean or when it should be used, but that would hold true with practically any of our commonly used and widely known words. This is a good opportunity to support this specific context of itʻs use and celebrate the diversity and wide reach of aloha.”
  • Kumu Manu Boyd: “As long as there is no ownership of the word “aloha.” I do not think this should be a pilikia… Hoʻouna ʻia e kaʻu ipona me ke aloha.”
  • Kumu Robert “Lono” Ikuewa:Mahalo everyone for your manao. Steve, the people you interviewed are genuine kupuna who embody aloha. When we learn of how the shaka came about, it is a story of love of family, community, ‘aina, and ke akua. It really is a beautiful story of sacrifice and joy…”

“Shaka, the Power of Aloha” ~ Coming 2022

Finalizing a name for a product, company or movie is a monumental task. We’re pretty stoked with this name as are happy to announce it as our official title. Look forward to seeing it out sometime in early 2022!