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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 1st day of Running, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 64 > Articles > Every Stamp Tells a Story

Every Stamp Tells a Story

by pikatribble

This week: Mystery Island Aishas Stamp

NEOPIAN POST OFFICE KIOSK - Hello and welcome back stamp collectors! It's time for another exciting (or hopefully, at least, mildly interesting) edition of Every Stamp Tells a Story. With Halloween over and the chill of winter slipping down into Neopia Central from the peak of Terror Mountain, many are contemplating warmer retreats for the next few months. That is why this week we will be looking at the Mystery Island Aishas stamp:

The Mystery Island Tourism Board sponsored this stamp in an effort to promote the island's natural beauty and culture. Since the discovery of Mystery Island by mainland Neopian's, there has been steady pressure by developers to build typical tropical island resorts along the island's pristine beaches to encourage further tourism. Many native islanders feel that this could possibly lead to the destruction of their culture and way of life, and a growing resistance to tourism in any form has been building. It is hoped that through the promotion of a type of 'eco-tourism', which highlights the natural wonders of the island and showcases the unique customs of the islanders, an agreeable balance between economic and cultural demands can be reached.

The caption which accompanies this stamp - Aishas dance on a Mystery Island beach! - does not do justice to the picture depicted upon it. To begin with, the beach shown in the background is one at the famed Omara bay, its sparkling white sands reflecting the beautiful orange rays of the setting sun, turning the clear blue skies overhead to magnificent shades of purple and indigo. The crystal clear waters of the bay wash ashore rhythmically, the waves attracting surfers from all over Neopia as they attempt to imitate the graceful Peophins who ride upon the crests. Further away from shore, where the waves have yet to rise majestically from the ocean surface, snorklers and divers alike will find an amazing array of tropical plant and animal species, many of which are unique to the waters of Mystery Island.

The two Aishas portrayed in traditional grass skirts upon the stamp are Kahiko (the green Aisha on the right), and Auana (left), both of the Lalau family. The famed Lalau family has been the champion of the Pango Pango Mystery Island Hula Championships for three years in a row, and they are huthold names to the residents of Mystery Island.

Hula has been within the Lalau family for years, passed on from mother to daughter, from father to son (The Lalau family is one of that minority 4% of other species in the population of Mystery Island, and have inhabited the island for generations). It as much an art as it is a dance, each movement of a paw, tail or ear (depending upon the species) holding significance to the tale being told in the dance, which is accompanied by various percussive instruments and chanting. Kahiko and Auana have themselves been studying the dance since they were born, taught by their mother, Mele, who was herself one of the most accomplished hula dancers of her time. Even though most Aishas show an instinctive ability to dance, their acute hearing allowing them to almost feel the rhythm of music, the sisters seemed to excel more than most. At a young age, they showed an understanding of the rhythm of the chant, and an ability to swiftly learn the movements and interpretations of the dance. They won their first regional competition as lead dancers when they were teenagers, but even now, despite the fact that they are the reigning champions on Mystery Island and indeed in Neopia, both still consider themselves as learners and their 'art' to still be in its infancy.

Hula truly is a family affair for the Lalau's. Kahiko and Auana's father, Kumu, once performed in the hula dances himself, until an unfortunate incident with an angered Jetsam cut his promising career tragically short. He now works to manage the family's time, as they are much in demand throughout Mystery Island to perform in the various festivals, parades, competitions and tourist events. He is also responsible for finding new teachers for his daughters, who have memorised all the dances and chants their mother could teach them, and now seek to learn more from other families on the island.

Kahiko and Auana's brothers (Ipu, Kaekeke, Uliuli, Pahu) also participate in the hula dances, occasionally dancing but more often playing the instruments and performing the chants that accompany the girls rhythmic movements (Unfortunately, none of them seemed to inherit their father's sense of rhythm or aptitude for the dance itself). Ipu plays a traditional drum made from a hollowed-out tigermelon. The 'drum' can be played in a couple different ways, from hitting it with one's paw to banging it against a mat made of palm leaves. Kaekeke plays the wish sticks, and can create several different tones simply by using different combinations and lengths of cherry and oak wish sticks, striking them against each other or upon the ground. Uliuli plays a traditional rattle, formed by placing dried kraku berries inside a drained coconut. Lastly, Pahu plays a less traditional drum, one formed of a clay pot created with special strong walls by island artisans. It is played by lowering a cub tooth attached to a string into the pot's interior, and then swinging the tooth around to clink against the inside of the pot. It takes a great deal of skill to make the sounds happen with a produce music instead of just noise, and Pahu has won many awards for his skill.

All the members of the family, including Kumu and Mele, perform the chants that accompany the dance performances. Most of the chants to which the hula is performed focus either upon historical events or the beauty of nature. The favourite of the Lalau family and the one which has become their signature piece at all their performances is as follows:

          The waves roll in along the shore;
          An endless dance forevermore;
          The sands accept their cool embrace;
          This is my true home.

          The mountains rise into the skies;
          Feel Tiku Taku's ghostly eyes;
          The warrior who saved us all;
          Who saved my one true home.

          The Kougra's prowl the jungles deep;
          The jungle's wild pulse they do keep;
          The Pango's dance their tribal beat;
          Echo in my true home.

          This paradise within the sea;
          Does not belong to you or me;
          And yet forever will I believe;
          That this is my true home.

So remember, the next time you visit Mystery Island, do not simply think of it as a vacation, but as a chance to immerse yourself in another culture with different beliefs and traditions. Certainly, you may not have all the amenities of a stay at the Presidential Palace, and you may have to carry your own luggage to your guest hut, but the awe-inspiring beauty of the island and the kindness of its inhabitants will make you forget any minor discomforts. And if at all possible, be certain to catch one of the Lalau family's performances. You won't regret it!

Until next time, happy stamp collecting!

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