API Chaya cultivates healing to tend to our wellness and interrupt cycles of violence using the power of our Pasifika, Native Hawaiian, South Asian and Asian cultural traditions. In Pasifika culture, healing and wellness can come through the restoration of our Mana.
While Mana cannot be described in English terms, the closest description would be a supernatural energy. Mana is the essence of all things, as well as the life force that gives all things purpose, including inanimate objects. In Moanan (Oceanic) culture, everything possesses Mana. While Mana can be viewed as good and evil in Western culture, it is not measured in good or bad. Mana is measured in terms of strength. Our experiences and works can either strengthen or weaken our Mana.
Mana is also passed on through time and generations. As we grow older, our life experiences and choices can impact the Mana we are born with. Our initial Mana is inherited from our ancestors, and it can be changed by our environment or people we are surrounded by.
The systems that we are currently surviving have done a lot of damage to the Mana of the Pasifika people. We see it in the ways violence has been normalized in our community. We see it in our communities having the highest rates of COVID than any other group in King County. We see it in our disproportionately high incarceration rates. We see it in the way our bodies are exocitized and capitalized for entertainment.
Mana was the inspiration behind a series offered through API Chaya’s Pasifika community organizing program. The goal of this series is to offer a space of Mana restoration to the Pasifika community through indigenous practices, including art, dance, music, and medicine. Through our Mana programming, we hope to offer tools that will help people heal, and reconnect to one another and to nature. We seek to strengthen our Mana through the storytelling and practices of our ancestors.
In June of 2021, the Mana program kicked off with Ti leaf Lei making. Gifting other people with Leis is a practice that we have been doing in the Pacific for countless generations. While modern day leis are made with candy, they are traditionally made with handpicked leaves. Through the practice of weaving leis, we also weaved our Mana into this gift that is being given to our loved ones. This tradition helps the person weaving understand where they are in life; is our Lei too tight? Is it too loose? What goes through your mind while braiding? Through Lei making, we engaged with our own Mana and practiced passing our Mana to others through the creation of this gift.
The program went on to highlight ancestral medicinal practices. These practices focused on how our bodies are able to heal themselves if we allow it, and are given the proper instructions on how to allow it. As plants also possess Mana, we utilized the healing power of plants and herbs to create medicine for pain relief. We reflected on how the Earth contains everything that we need, and on how we can be in right relationship with our home.
The last component of the Mana program is the preservation of culture through dance, movement, and song. As we sang together in the language of our ancestors and told their stories of survival with our hands, we not only healed our weakened Mana, but we also empowered our human strength. Pasifika peoples are known for their physical strength, but our true strength lies in our spirit. Through our Mana, which has been passed onto us from generations before, we carry our ancestors everywhere we go.