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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 asks.

“ 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 intercultural coziness.

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 next issue.
 
 

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