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Digital NativeZ use TikTok to amplify FestPAC

June 24, 2024

The 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture hosted over 500,000 attendees over two weeks, celebrating and perpetuating Pacific cultures and nations through ceremonies, performances, demonstrations and more. From Samoan fire dances and Māori chants to Rapa Nui tattooing and Fijian fashion, audiences in-person and online were captivated by the vibrant, powerful showcase of native excellence.

For Kiʻinani Rosario, FestPAC was an adrenaline-fueled opportunity to capture and share cultural moments as a Digital NativeZ resident. The program, facilitated by the kula Hawaiʻi network Kanaeokana in partnership with Papakōlea Community Development Corporation, tasked her and two peers to create civic-minded TikTok videos that inform and inspire their generation through social media.

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 58% of teens reported checking TikTok daily, and that number continues to grow as the video-sharing app’s users have grown by 12% in recent years.

Click here to view video.

“Kanaeokana has been using social media as a communication tool to reach all segments of the lāhui. As a network dedicated to nurturing the next generation of aloha ʻāina, we want to empower our youth with the tools to advocate for their needs and concerns through social media,” said Manuwai Peters, a senior coordinating project manager at KS.

For Rosario, social media is a digital archive to preserve and promote cultural traditions. At the festival, she posted multiple videos of dances and songs to highlight the cultural richness.

“Social media is really noisy and it doesn’t always have the right information. The only way to remedy that is to put the right information out there and give a voice to what is happening,” Rosario said. “It’s hard for people to care about what’s going on but if you show them humanity or a face for connection, they may understand.”

In the future, she hopes to use technology to build a school curriculum rooted in Hawaiian culture and values. This residency sharpened her skills in digital platforms and audience engagement as she dove into forums about native arts and film.

Fellow Digital Native Kealoha Cosma KSK’21 views herself as an educator through her content. Recording everything from keynote speeches to games and songs, Cosma was most interested in language revitalization and how FestPAC exemplifies it. Her love for ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi excited her to create a recap video of pwo navigator Nainoa Thompson’s keynote speech in Hawaiian.

“It’s been inspiring to see even little kids ʻōlelo,” Cosma said. “I am using this platform to boost ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and encourage others to speak their native language.”

She also combines her love of language and culture as an artist, using the platform to analyze and share Hawaiian history through her paintings, one of them illustrating Kauikeaouli and Timoteo Haʻalilio for Lā Kūʻokoʻa.

Chaminade University freshman Kaua Lopez KSK’24, another member of the Digital NativeZ cohort, is also interested in showcasing native art to wider audiences. As an environmental interior design major, he hopes to infuse what he’s learned about Hawaiian culture into sustainable, effectual designs. During FestPAC, he captured many fascinating events, including a special interview with musician Josh Tatofi.

Seeing so many Pacific peoples come together encouraged the KS Kapālama grad to deeply engage in the momentous occasion, jumping in to play Māori games with visiting youth and interviewing Cook Islands delegates about their language.

Click here to view video.

“Seeing people sharing so much of themselves and all they know about their culture has been the coolest thing,” Lopez said.

While their videos are reaching their peers online, Rosario finds it most inspiring to be amongst kūpuna at the festival, understanding that cultural knowledge and practices don’t just transcend national boundaries or physical distance but also age groups.

“So few of us make it to old age, so to see our elders still committed to cultural revitalization and sovereignty for not just us but the entire Pacific has been inspiring,” Rosario said. “It makes me want to get to that age so that I too can pass on whatever knowledge they give me to the next generations.”

The Digital NativeZ residency program combines digital media savvy and online advocacy to empower ʻōpio to engage civically and take on their kuleana to Hawaiʻi. Their experiences at FestPAC 2024 reinforced their commitment to sharing their cultures and they are determined to continue this work to impact their generation and beyond.

Kaua Lopez KSK’24, Kiʻinani Rosario and Kealoha Cosma KSK’21 (from left to right) covered FestPAC 2024 as a part of their Digital NativeZ residency.

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