A Space for Writers of the World
Dances preserve our culture.
Our body movements tell our history,
but 400 years of colonization
paralyzed our native form of storytelling.
Today, I am one of many
hollywood-Polynesian show girls
who sell lies in the form of body language.
My smile is the welcome mat to an exotic paradise.
As dancers we take the Chamoru greeting, “Hafa Adai,”
and sell it with our voices: “Haa-faa adayyyy.”
We represent Guahan’s women
in a dance show that’s only 12% indigenous
but the tourists don’t know that
The audience listens to Polynesian melodies
with Chamoru lyrics woven into them
We entice with the hands of hula
and tease with the hips of Tahiti
and like birds, we scream****, to make our show exciting,
as if our native tongues weren’t breathtaking enough.
Our bodies are covered
with foreign te manu feathers
while the leaves of our local coconut trees, our trongkon niyok
silently watch from their branches.
the tourists cheer for us;
for the moving postcards
that stage imitations of culture
The crowd’s applause drowns the truth.
This is not Pacific custom…
This is a show,
sponsored by the suits
who tied traditions to profit.
The tourists perceive this as genuine,
and we perpetuate the lie.
This once sacred village, Tomhom, now called pleasure island,
is a graveyard of indigenous traditions.
The spirituality of our culture falls
as dollar bills rise like new hotels over buried villages.
We’re twirling and swaying and dipping and shaking and dying
to try and find an escape from our debt
as if we could dance our way into a better economy.
traded traditional Chamoru dances
for their fake versions of
Auwana, Otea, and fire Poi.
It’s a shame that we have to
exploit Pacific culture,
as we twist Hawaiian, Tahitian, Maori,
and Chamoru image for profit.
The revival of authentic dance
should enrich the livelihood of
the natives they belong to.
Not the pockets of businessmen,
who monopolize the ancient
practices of pacific people
and control them
like cheap commodities.
Our dances have become
more profitable than meaningful,
These businessmen have
turned worship into entertainment.
Cultural representation should be put
back into the hands of the indigenous
So our stories can be told beyond promise of income
So our bodies become vessels of truth
and so our dances become bridges to our ancestors.
They are called our Saina,
and by respecting them we learn
to respect our island.
The leaves of our trongkon niyok
should no longer watch from their branches.
They should find a home around our women’s hips
so the slaps of our palms against our skirts
could make the niyok palm leaves beat
like the pulse of our culture.
It may be almost impossible to revive authentic Chamoru dance,
but pieces of it are still living.
Te Manu feathers can soar from Chamoru skin
and once again nest on the curves of Polynesian women.
Screams of Tahiti can find refuge
curled in the tongues of their people
while Chamoru chants dance in our mouths.
Our women can hold seashells
in their palms, so
The flames of Aotearoa can burn within
the hearts of their rightful homeland.
Our dances are as beautiful as our people,
There is so little of our culture left,
that the importance of salvaging it, has far greater wealth
than any business or tourist attraction.
Owning a business
gives you no right
to own our culture.
Arielle Taitano Lowe is 19 years of age. She was born and raised on the Pacific island of Guam (a.k.a. Guahan) a U.S. colony. She is half Chamoru (Guam native) and half Caucasian. She is passionate about writing, Pacific dancing, and performing slam poetry. Since November 2011, she has trained as a youth poet with Sinangan-ta Youth Movement, Guam’s Official Spoken Word Arts Organization. Her piece, “Dance” was performed at Brave New Voices 2013 in Chicago. She also has other work published in Storyboard 14: A Journal of Pacific Imagery. She strives to use her voice in the movement for decolonization.