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Shaka is now officially the state gesture

HILO, Hawai‘i — A new law has designated the shaka as the official state gesture.

Gov. Josh Green on Friday quietly signed into law Senate Bill 3312, making Hawai‘i the first state to declare an official gesture.

According to the bill, which took effect immediately upon Green’s signature, the shaka is now legally definable as “generally (consisting) of extending the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled, and gesturing in salutation while presenting the front or back of the hand; the wrist may be rotated back and forth for emphasis.”

That definition accounts for most of the text of the bill. The remainder includes a brief sentence declaring that the shaka is adopted as the official gesture of the state, and another clause allowing the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to develop a public work of art related to the gesture and its history.

Steve Sue, director of Hawai‘i nonprofit ID8 and the architect of the bill, said the gesture has a deep cultural connection to Hawai‘i extending back over a century.

“It has tremendous cultural value,” Sue said. “How it’s used around the world calls back to here, to Hawai‘i.”

While multiple theories exist about the gesture’s origins, they all have roots in Hawai‘i, Sue said. However, other states could feasibly attempt to claim the gesture as their own — California, for example, because of its prevalent surf culture, or Texas, because of the use of a similar gesture at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi — something which the bill preempts.

“If we don’t claim it, then we risk cultural dilution of its history,” Sue said.

Of course, Sue added, the symbol also is a major economic driver for the state.

“I challenge you to walk into an ABC Store and not see something with a shaka on it,” Sue said.

Sue said the measure received unanimous support throughout its passage in the Hawai‘i Legislature, although he added that bills with no financial appropriations tends to be an easier sell for budget-conscious lawmakers.

“It’s a simple initiative, with a huge impact,” said Honolulu Sen. Glenn Wakai, who co-introduced the bill, in a statement. “The shaka captures the goodness of Hawai‘i. It’s a ubiquitous gesture that is offered with the best of intentions. … Since the shaka was born in Hawai‘i, it makes sense to claim it as our own.

“I bet you will see other states following Hawai‘i’s lead. Our world needs less hate and gunfire, and more shakas!”
Source: The Garden Island

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