Tag Archives: tourism

The Ogapoga

Informant AJ is a freshman at a university in the Canadian province of British Columbia whose family lives in San Jose, California. AJ moved to BC for the first time in August of 2022 to begin university.


“It’s a little unfamiliar to me but I’ve heard a few people talk about it here and there and seeing the statue posted downtown. It seems to be a creature in the Okanagan Lake just a few miles down south of the university. And there’s some sea creature that does something, I’m not very sure. I would say it looks like a sea dragon, kind of like a snake.”


“We have a little statue of it downtown and some people will take pictures of that and ride it for fun. I heard somebody mention it and they were like, ‘You’ve never heard of Ogopogo?!’ The lake is one of the biggest attractions here in Kelowna, so I’m sure that’s a fun story that people who live here can tell visitors.”


Because the Ogopogo has a statue in downtown Kelowna, the legend of the Ogopogo has taken on an aspect of capitalist appeal as the city utilizes the legend as a tourist attraction, representing an example of folklorismus. However, the Ogopogo traces its roots to stories from the Interior Salish First Nation people of a lake spirit known as the N’ha-a-itk. In this sense, the Ogopogo also carries a mythic nature, but as the story passed through the generations and through the colonization of North America, monetary interests grabbed hold of this myth and transformed it into the tourist attraction AJ knows it as. When he first moved to Kelowna, BC, there was a big reaction when AJ announced that he wasn’t aware of the Ogopogo, indicating its strong public appeal. Yet, the manner in which he learned about the Ogopogo, through visits to the statue in downtown Kelowna, indicate the weakening of the traditional myth of the Ogopogo.

Madame Pele at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel

T is 70 years old. He is a retired teacher. He was born in Southern California and raised in Hawaii. He was 7 years old when his family moved there in 1959. He is very animated and speaks very quickly. He shared this piece with me in conversation.

“The legend of Pele used to frighten me as a child. She was always seen before a volcanic eruption… someone would see her… she was very regal, tall, long flowing black hair, flaming red dress flowing behind her… she was elegant. She would appear walking somewhere… This was in 1960, what happened was the volcano did erupt and we lived on Kailua at the time, the eruption was on the big island, I forget which volcano it was, but the pumice, that’s when the lava flows on the water, anyway the pumice flows onto the beach… people use it to scrub their face, anyways people said they saw her walking through the wall in the Hawaiian Village hotel. She’s not happy about how the island is going, you know… what’s happened to the native Hawaiians and the Polynesian culture… So I was really scared of her and I used to think I would see her walking through my bedroom but I never did. So if you see her walking around, that means a volcano will erupt pretty soon. They call her the goddess, Madame Pele.”

Pele is part of Hawaiian mythology but interestingly endures in contemporary times through many sightings, sometimes as a hitchhiker, sometimes dressed in white with a white dog, and sometimes as a beautiful young woman dressed in red or as a female figure within lava itself. These contemporary iterations of Pele take the form of ghost story figures. The version T told me coincides with accounts documented on websites such as https://www.hauntedrooms.com/hawaii/haunted-places/haunted-hotels & https://frightfind.com/hilton-hawaiian-village/ and does seem to serve as a cautionary tale or lesson particularly in light of the fact that the sighting happens in a tourist hotel and that Pele is not happy about native land dispossession and the display of Polynesian culture as tourist attraction.

For more information about Pele and contemporary sightings see https://www.academia.edu/189854 & https://www.hawaiimagazine.com/people-cant-stop-seeing-pele-in-the-lava/.

Warli Paintings

Background provided by MN: MN is an individual who grew up in the Maharashtra state of India, where they learned 4 languages including Sanskrit. They recently moved to America for further education. 

Context:  As we were talking about different types of folklore, MN shared this information about this particular Indian tribal art that originated from their state in India. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information): 

MN: “Warli paintings are also from where I am from, Maharashtra. There is a mountain range in Maharashtra called sayandrit (spelled Sahyadri) and it … originated there. And it is tribal art. Like tribes, there used to make this art and I think … there’s prehistoric caves … umm … like huge … huge prehistoric caves, the most significant of them are arjenda (proceeds to spell A-j-a-n-t-a and E-l-l-o-r-a) and alura I think they are UNESCO historic sites and they have … like … they’re approximately 2 BCE. They have this temple (gestures towards photo on UNESCO website) … it’s almost like a Buddhist temple … and they have closed entry there now … because it was a tourist location where you can see the paintings and stuff. And if you look online you can still see the color and stuff. It has these … like geometric shapes … this is like the feature of it. Almost like what kids draw, but there is a lot of imagery of the sun … and people dancing. In most of the Warli paintings, you will see the sun … and people dancing in a circle. It is kind of … a design choice.”

Me: “I kinda have a couple follow-up questions about the paintings with the Warli paintings. Like did you have a favorite … or like did you ever … like … interact with one … that kinda changed  the way you see things?”

MN: “ Ummm … not really, this is not really … uhh .. it’s a very abstract design. It’s not the same everywhere. Uhhh … it’s not like a particular painting or anything .. just specific features of this painting. It’s a … type of painting … I’d say… a stylistic choice.  So there’s not a particular one that I… but I do remember a restaurant having one mural … it was all the whole wall. 

Analysis: This type of folk art that MN had informed me about was very interesting because it first belonged to a very niche group, but transitioned to a UNESCO world heritage site. MN provides their unique perspective as a local emphasizes that Warli paintings are an art style that has since transformed and integrated into contemporary times. The motifs in the Warli art style continue to be adapted in the contemporary pieces, as MN mentions. The Warli paintings are connected largely to the Buddhist belief system and this connection could explain its prevalence in modern art. MN explained that the most common motifs are the Sun and the dancing people, which are very telling of a culture that values warmth and community. The Sun is often associated with masculinity, warmth, and energy. The geometric people suggest that modern Indian society is heavily influenced by dance.

MN recounted that Ajanta was once a tourist attraction, but later, UNESCO protected the cave to preserve India’s art history. After it turned into a UNESCO site Ajanta was no longer to be enjoyed by the general public and access was restricted. The Warli paintings are folk art that can no longer be enjoyed in person, which could have hurt the local economy. Tourism is the largest market and when UNESCO protected Ajanta, it also destroyed tourism. The locals were no longer able to visit the site either. This restriction could also explain the prevalence of Warli painting motifs in more contemporary pieces, such as decor in a restaurant as MN mentioned.

For more information about Ajanta, as well as visuals please visit the UNESCO website: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/242.

Kiss, or Don’t Kiss, The Blarney Stone

S is 54, he lived in England where his mother is from for the first ten years of his life before his family moved to California. He is soft spoken and pauses thoughtfully while speaking. He told me about the Blarney Stone, which he learned about visiting Ireland.

“One I heard about visiting Ireland… it’s like a rock that’s sort of like a cliff’s edge and if you hang upside down and kiss the Blarney Stone, you’ll be given the gift of the gab… meaning you will be able to speak well extemporaneously… and so during the day, the tourists come and lay back and kiss the stone but the locals pee on it at night.”

The Blarney Stone is found at the top of Blarney Castle, there are various legends about where the stone came from, some can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20100830230658/http://www.blarneycastle.ie/pages/stone. The bit about locals peeing on it seems to be another piece of folklore. This reddit thread proved inconclusive, some contributors thinking it’s too difficult to get into the castle at night and during the day there would be too many people including a guard to get away with it. https://www.reddit.com/r/ireland/comments/3ywbkq/do_people_really_piss_on_the_blarney_stone/. Either way it’s an interesting piece because it shows the tension between a reliance on tourism and the potential for resentment than can arise from that dependence.

The Chinaman’s Hat

T is 70 years old. He is a retired teacher. He was born in Southern California and raised in Hawaii. He was 7 years old when his family moved there in 1959. He is very animated and speaks very quickly. As he explains in the piece, he likes it because his father worked for a tour company on Oahu and it is one of the stories he remembers the tour guides telling tourists. He told it to me in conversation.

“It was one of the small islands, Oahu, where we lived… but um… one thing dad was, was he worked for Trade Wind Tours and because… we didn’t have a lot of money but we did go on a lot of tours, so we went on bus tours… like Pearl Harbor tours… there was one called Circle Island Tours… it was boring but they had free food, so… The tour guides would tell stories and one was the legend of the Chinaman’s hat. There’s a Hawaiian name for the island but I don’t remember… but people call it Chinaman’s hat. What the legend is, is that there was an evil Chinese giant that ruled over the menehunes… they were like elves or leprechauns, and he ruled over them and was mean and the menehunes got together with Pele who was the goddess of the volcanoes… she was not a happy woman… anyway she got together with them and the Chinaman liked to eat turtles, so there’s an island across the way and they tricked him into going out into the ocean and it was further away and deeper than the Chinaman could swim, so he sank and drowned. Anyway his hat is still there sticking out of the water.”

There is an island off Oahu that is known as the Chinaman’s hat. The island’s name in Hawaiian is Mokoli’i. According to www.haaiian-culture-stories.com/chinamans-hat.html, “Pele’s sister, Hi’iaka, slew a giant lizard and threw its tail into the ocean… the island of Mokoli’i remains a remnant of the lizard’s back, poking through the water.” The same site references a 1983 painting by artist Dean Howell showing a cross section of the island and the Chinese giant below the ocean. A google search revealed Dean Howell was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and studied art at Brigham Young University in Hawaii. He also have published a book called The Story of the Chinaman’s Hat in 1990. A 2007 article published in Pacific Business News https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2007/05/07/story9.html cites a failed resolution to discourage the use of “Chinaman’s Hat” to refer to Mokoli’i which means “little lizard” in Hawaiian according to https://www.to-hawaii.com/oahu/attractions/chinamanshat.php.

Menehune are a mythological race of diminutive people who live in the forest and stay hidden, coming out at night to build temples, roads, houses, etc. According to Wikipedia, Folklorist Katharine Luomala posits that “the Menehune are a post-European contact mythology created by adaptation of the term manahune (which by the time of the colonization of the Hawaiian Islands by Europeans had acquired a meaning of “lowly people” or “low social status” and not diminutive in stature) to European legends of brownies.” Brownies being household spirits of Scottish folklore. So it’s interesting that T recalled the Menehune as elves or leprechauns.

The story T remembers hearing tour guides tell illustrates the history of colonialism, Asian labor migration, and touristic exploitation in Hawaii. Efforts to discourage the use of “Chinaman’s Hat” in favor of the Hawaiian name Moloki’i, show the role and power of folklore in terms of national identity and culture. The elements that make up the story show the complexity of folklore as a living tradition that can resist easy definition as well as how fakelore (assuming the tour guides simply made up the story for tourists) can become disseminated and accepted.