Honoring the Ancestors and Adapting to the Present
May 28, 2021

Honoring the Ancestors and Adapting to the Present

Moses Goods (Native Hawaiian) is one of Hawaiʻi’s most prominent theater artists.

He has written thirteen full length plays and traveled nationally and internationally performing his original works which are strongly rooted in Native Hawaiian culture.

“But the most rewarding experience of my career involves my mother,” he said. She was forbidden by her parents from speaking her Native ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) in the hopes it would help her excel in a Westernized world. She forgot many of the stories she was told as a child about her own family, history and culture.

“When I decided to make Hawaiian stories the focus of my artmaking something beautiful happened within my mother,” Moses said. “She began to remember the stories that she had forgotten. She thanked me. In that moment I realized that I was the conduit that reconnected my mother with what was thought to have been lost.”

Dedicated through his art to uplifting Native Hawaiian culture, Moses was chosen as a 2021 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership Fellow allowing him added freedom to “explore how different combinations of words, movement, visuals, sound and even silences can evoke imagery in the mind to bring our mo‘olelo (stories) to life,” he said.

And also adapt to pandemic realities.

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1. Moses Goods. Photo provided by the artist. 2. Moses Goods. 2016 MAMo Wearable Arts Show. Photo by: Kai Markell 3. Moses Goods. Photo by Linny Morris.

Before the disruptions of Covid, Moses founded the ʻInamona Theatre, an organization dedicated to telling Native Hawaiian stories. (ʻInamona is a traditional

relish made from the kernel of the candlenut and is sprinkled sparingly over meaʻai -- nourishing food. No matter how skilled the storyteller, their work is merely a condiment to the greater sustenance -- the stories of the ancestors.)

But now he must adjust to the new paradigm.

“The success of theatrical endeavors has always been largely dependent on audiences gathering together in shared spaces,” Moses said. “But with social distancing now being the ‘new normal,’ virtual gatherings have proven to be the best option on a very short list of alternatives.”

So he plans to expand his online presence and increase his ability to develop his art


“Like most artists throughout the world, I find myself at a pivotal moment in my career,” he says, noting a need to place more emphasis on virtual performances. To do this well, Moses said, he needs to have suitable space to work and to upgrade his audio visual technology. He plans to dedicate some of his fellowship resources toward these goals.

“Since the pandemic started, platforms such as YouTube, Zoom and Facebook Live have become essential tools for performance-based artists,” he said. With the space obtained through his grant resources and upgraded audio-visual equipment, he plans to start a YouTube channel by developing a series of videos that will highlight his creative talents in an online setting.

He also plans another creative shift by putting more of his energy into the design and construction of theatrical tools, such as masks, puppetry, headpieces, and costuming.

“These tools have always existed as subsidiary facets of my creative work, but as I now move toward capturing my work virtually, I recognize the tremendous impact that visual storytelling can have upon virtual audiences.” he said.

While always keeping an eye on his core mission to share the stories of his ancestors.

“About a year ago I toured one of my shows throughout New England titled ‘My Name is ʻŌpūkahaʻia,’ a true story about one of the first Hawaiians to leave the islands having ended up in Connecticut,” he said. He gave one performance at an affluent boarding school in Massachusetts. After the show, the lone Native student in the audience approached him and, through tears, expressed how the show’s themes of healing and identity resonated with her.

“She shared stories of her family’s complicated history with Christianity and the trauma that her ancestors experienced having to attend boarding schools in the Navajo Nation,” Moses said. “Then she told me of her aspirations of someday becoming a Native filmmaker and how my performance inspired her to tell Native stories. That was my turn to shed tears. I don’t think that there’s anything that inspires me more than the thought of that single child in the audience receiving messages and inspiration from their ancestors. That’s what keeps me going.”
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