A Voyage to Health and Disney’s “Moana” – Two Tales of the Pacific Islands

Oscar nominations are out – did your favorite film from last year receive one? One you may have seen (particularly if you have children) was the Disney animated musical, Moana. You might be interested to know that you can learn a little more about some of the concepts from the film by visiting the library to explore our latest exhibit on loan from the National Library of Medicine, A Voyage to Health: An exhibition about the revival of Native Hawaiian Traditions. 

Hokule'a. Photo courtesy of Monte Costa and the National Library of Medicine

Hokule’a. Photo courtesy of Monte Costa and the National Library of Medicine

For those not familiar, the movie tells the tale of a young Polynesian girl, Moana, and her journey across the ocean to restore life back to the islands and surrounding environs she calls home. Along the way, she meets Maui (the heroic Polynesian demigod who created the Pacific Islands by fishing them out of the sea), and comes to learn the ancient art of wayfinding, a way of navigating the ocean by boat without instrumentation practiced by her ancestors. The filmmakers went to great lengths to do their research while creating the film, and it shows. The movie has been well received for its treatment of the source material and its approach to introducing a mainstream audience to the mythology and history of ancient Polynesian culture.



Hokule’a returning from its first voyage to Tahiti. Photo courtesy of Monte Costa and the National Library of Medicine

It’s a big moment when Moana decides to set out on adventure and the concept of wayfinding is first introduced. Did you know this art is actually an important part of Pacific Island history? Many of the islands were originally populated in this way. The practice itself has seen something of a revival in modern Native Hawaiian culture and traditions, and this is exactly what our exhibit, A Voyage to Health, is all about. As part of a wider movement to embrace traditional customs, the ancient art is being taught and voyages are being led throughout the Pacific. It is the hope that practices like this and an overall return to a focus on the love of the land culturally and spiritually will improve the health of Native Hawaiians, and chart a course toward a healthy and sustainable future for both the Hawaiian Islands and the earth.

To read up on this endeavor, stop by the COM 2nd floor atrium next Tuesday January 31st between 3:00pm and 4:00pm. The Health Sciences Library will be hosting a fun luau-themed reception celebrating the grand opening of the exhibit. Come enjoy the exhibit and light refreshments – click here to RSVP!


Can’t make it to the event? You can see the six-banner, standing exhibition in the Health Sciences Library atrium from January 17th –  February 25th, 2017. If your children loved Moana, bring them by for an educational take on their new favorite film.



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