Hawaiian culture reminds us of our deep connections and responsibility to land and sea. Today, cultural leaders in Hawai‘i are training a new generation to share these values and practices with the world, to help make us all better stewards of the island that is our planet.

In December 2022, Yo-Yo Ma traveled to Hawaiʻi for a week of music and conversation inspired by the Hawaiian belief that “He waʻa, he honua”— the Earth is our canoe. 


© Austin Mann

Molokaʻi kamaʻāina (locals) and culture-keepers welcomed Yo-Yo and guided first encounters with the mana (power, spirit and strength) of the ancient island. Yo-Yo spent the day honoring the ways this community continues to fiercely protect its abundant home through intimate interactions with the ʻāina (land), including an ‘awa tea ceremony and offerings of music to honor the ocean and all living things. 


© Austin Mann

Yo-Yo visited the Kalaupapa peninsula, where more than 8,000 people, mostly Hawaiians, were relocated due to Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Yo-Yo joined the Kalaupapa community in a special musical offering at Papaloa cemetery to honor the cultural survival and sacrifices of the islands, and learn about disease, community, and spirit from the remaining elder patients.


© Austin Mann

Yo-Yo performed Bach’s complete cello suites at the Waikiki Shell in Oʻahu. He was joined on stage for for special performances throughout the concert by Hawaiian artists Aaron Salā, Snowbird Bento, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, and Kaumakaiwa Kanakaʻole.


© Austin Mann

For generations, the people of Hawai‘i passed knowledge of land, sea and community from the mouths of the elders to the ears of the younger generation through ‘Ōlelo (language and spoken word). Surrounded by lava fields that continue to shape this island’s past and future, Yo-Yo joined kamaʻāina culture-keepers at the Kalaemanō Cultural Center to join in this chain of storytelling and celebrate their work preserving the coastline, dryland forest, and traditional fishing practices at Ka‘ūpūlehu.


© Austin Mann

At sunset, Yo-Yo joined navigators and crew members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) on the Hōkūleʻa canoe to celebrate the call to voyage that connects so many living things. 

In collaboration with the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology and PVS, the canoe brought Yo-Yo to the “road of the whale” to learn about the unique culture of whales.


Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra
Gravitas Pasifika
Snowbird Bento
Polynesian Voyaging Society
Mark and Amanda Noguchi
Puʻu O Hōkū Ranch
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalaemanō Cultural Reserve
Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole
Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio
Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology