by Franziska Fenger, staff writer
|The drumming sound comes from a man in front of
the International Market Place who plays two drums in a shopping
cart. Next to him, toward Diamond Head, an Asian man tries to
make the passing tourists relax so that he can draw them.
Beyond the artist, another man has set up a funny-looking chair.
A tourist comes by, and the man asks him if he would like to
have a massage. He sits in the chair–face down–and
enjoys all of the other people starring at him.
Beyond the masseur, a woman waits for customers for henna tattoos
that she paints on their bodies. She wears a black T-Shirt that
reads “got soul?” A man takes a picture of her and
she suddenly yells: “You just took my soul away!” Looking
scared, he walks away quickly passing another painter.
Then, he abruptly stops. His eye catches sight of a golden statue
that turns out to be a real human being sitting stock still on
a box. On and off, girls scream out loud when the golden man
moves suddenly frightening them.
The next street performer is a henna painter as well. The young
artist finishes a tattoo and looks around for his next target.
He suddenly steps in front of a passing girl. “Hey, you
wanna sit down with me and get a free henna tattoo?” he
No, thank you! I don’t have time,” she answers.
Come on. Only five minutes…”
Not too convinced, she finally sits down.
Dylan is the performers name. He is 25. Dylan came here four
years ago and only half a year later he started performing on
Kalakaua Avenue. Two months ago he began painting with henna.
Dylan is into art but even more into music. He was very artistic
as a child, he says, and began to play the drums and other instruments
at an early age. Now, he even writes his own songs and poems.
Why doesn’t he show his musical side on Kalakaua? Dylan
says he has just quit music. “I’m in a weird phase
right now,” he adds. Dylan explains that he grew up in
a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but left it. Now, he thinks
of going back to them. Dylan has the feeling that the people–the
tourists –don’t deserve enjoying his talent as a
musician. Why should he have to make tourists happy when he doesn’t
even like them?
A young woman approaches. She asks how much a tattoo is.
It is up to you how much you donate,” he says.
So, I can get it for free?” she says shocked. “Yes,” Dylan
answers abruptly. He doesn’t like to pretend being nice
to tourists; however, he needs the money. Performing on Kalakaua
is his only income; he has no other job. The girl has only a
$20 bill, so she declines the tattoo. As she leaves, Dylan says
good bye with the peace sign.
On the other side of the International Market Place, heading
towards downtown Honolulu, the melodic tunes of a saxophone player
surround the passing crowd, and break dancers perform acrobatic
moves to music coming out of tiny boxes hooked up to an iPod.
Performance artists contribute to the colorful and lively atmosphere
on Kalakaua Avenue where kids hang out, tourists take pictures,
and homeless people play chess, ignoring the beautiful Waikiki
beach right next to them. And yet it all seems appropriate to
a place where tourists, locals, and artists come together in
The world of the Kalakaua street performers seems to be so shiny
and happy. Behind the golden façade, however, the artists
have to stand up frequently to battle with the police since many
performers don’t have a legal permit. More on this in the