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An Invitation From the Island of Keawenui: E NA PUA ALOHA HULA, E NA OLAPA ALOHA IA LAKA, E NA KANAKA ALOHA HAWAII, E HU A‘E!

An Invitation From the Island of Keawenui: E NA PUA ALOHA HULA, E NA OLAPA ALOHA IA LAKA, E NA KANAKA ALOHA HAWAII, E HU A‘E! by Sage Takehiro & Moku O Keawe:

I credit a lot of my writing style to my kumu hula’s choreography: informative and aesthetic, graceful and fierce. My name is Sage Uilani Takehiro.  I have been invited to tell a story of a hula celebration from my perspective and I extend this invitation to all who would like to experience the 5th Annual Moku O Keawe International Festival.


When I reflect on my first experience of hula, I recall being eye level with rows of rope tucked into an off-white pa‘u that popped with every uwehe. I watched all parts of those bare feet press into the floor while Nalani Kanakaole yelled, “Point that toe!” I smelled the sweat of that old studio and the kinolau of a hula goddess that adorned a life-size black and white photo of her mother, Aunty Edith – her arm slightly extended, her pointer finger gently stretched out, her palms perfect like they could catch rainwater, her mouth open, lips curved at the corners. I wondered what story she was chanting, what words were captured in that moment – I wonder if she knew that I would wonder about her.

I make sure to always point my toes when I dance. The strange thing is, I cannot feel my feet. When Aunty Nalani’s hand spanks that ipu I change. I am not me, I don’t have drama, and I’m not concerned about where the next rager is, or what I’m going to wear. I am something else. At the sound of a gourd I become a Story.

When people ask me how I wrote my first book, I hesitate to spill the beans. That is, I pretend like I’m dancing. While my fingertips compose words on a page, my mind leaps in line – a procession of storytellers to my right and to my left, to my front, my back, and at the oblique reach of my imagination. Hula is the foundation for everything I present to the world. When I think of the word “hula,” I recall stories that ignite my insides. I become a fire blazing trails through literary landscapes.

Through all the words I could ever read or write no knowledge compares to that which ignites inside of us when we dance. When I was young we were told not to share the fire. The things we learned in hula were kapu, VIP only kine info that nobody can know or touch, only see when it’s time to perform. There is still the common filter that every Halau has, but now everybody celebrates the sharing of knowledge like Makahiki born-again. Awareness of Hawaiian knowledge grows at the national and global levels, but to know is to experience.

* * * *

The Moku O Keawe International Festival is a celebration of hula – the most organic form of Hawaiian storytelling – providing an appropriate time and place to bring different perspectives together to share and develop our knowledge expressed in the medium of performance arts.


At last November’s festival, it had been almost a decade since I danced in a line while Aunty Nalani yelled at me. We learned Aia I Olaa Kuu Aloha, a song by Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole that describes the feeling of desire, a song that calls out to a lover. We were rarely rewarded with auwana dances at Halau O Kekuhi, so to learn such a beautiful mele in the modern style of hula with Aunty’s kahiko-ish choreography was a refreshing treat.

Another workshop that I participated in last year celebrated the place Mahaiula. We learned a hula auwana from Kaleo Trinidad in the patio of a condemned house that Helen Desha Beamer once partied at when she was young like us. We went through each verse describing a procession of her huakai from sailing through Kona, arriving at Mahaiula, and having a grand old time all the way until the moon light made love with the morning star. I kissed the flowers that Beamer described at the front porch of the house. I ran my hand across the old bar that served spirits to her friends. I was inspired to persevere with my writing, so that one day the young people will dance our stories, and so that our stories may inspire theirs.

Each island has its own rich history, beautiful expression, and highly regarded ancestry. The genealogy of Keawenuiaumi is especially unique as his island actively gives birth to Kamaehu. Through offering the knowledge of this place, and inviting others to participate in this exchange, we celebrate creation, life, and the stories of our cultural procession…


* * * *

The Hana Ulana workshop at the 5th Annual Moku O Keawe International Festival perpetuates weaving practices of a land famous for its fragrant hala. The Aha Puhala O Puna will teach beginners how to spock tree, clean, and prepare their Lauhala Plaiting materials. Experienced weavers are invited to craft a container for ‘ili‘ili, pebbles implemented in hula. Perhaps take your ‘ili‘ili to Kika Nohara’s hula auwana workshop to engage in his original choreography of Helen Desha Beamer’s, Keawaiki. The ‘ili‘ili are implemented in this hula to reinforce the natural characteristics of Keawaiki bay.

I almost feel guilty wanting to sign up for Kalim and Kuuleialoha Smith’s Ipu Heke workshop, because all materials will be provided, it’s not like I have to go bush diving for anything. But if I’ll ever be allowed to bypass strict Halau protocol to fashion an Ipu Heke, this would definitely be my window of opportunity.

Uncle Howard and Olana Ai’s hula auwana workshop is at Mahukona and I’ve had many-a-holoholo missions there, followed by very good times with my sister and friends. How sweet it would be learn a mele aloha aina from this family and visit this epic diving spot with a dance!

Without a doubt I am hitting up Aunty Nalani’s hula auwana workshop. We’ll dance to Kai Davis’ composition, Niihau. The swells described in the song are incorporated into Aunty’s original choreography, which I LOVE! I saw my hula sisters perform this hula at the Hoku Malama fashion show and instantly fell head over high heels! Niihau is our kupuna island and I would dance my heart out for her.

Nalani Keale’s hula kahiko workshop takes you through the significant sites of our tutu Niihau, the home of his ancestors. How generous of Keale to share an original kahiko composition, only $45 donation – cannot go wrong! If you cannot afford Niihau shells, you can definitely afford to learn a dance equal in beauty, symbolism, and perpetuation.

Another hula kahiko workshop will be instructed by the adorable Kaleo Trinidad, it will explore Mary Kawena Pukui’s hula pahu composition, Poliahu. If there is ever a time to dance for Poliahu to the words of Pukui, now is the time. With a proposed 30-meter telescope on its way to Mauna Kea, the sacredness of dedication with hula pahu is definitely in order.

What more could you possibly do to express place-based love but to learn the stories of these places and dance for them? Uluwehi Guerrero’s workshop infuses the love that composer Nina Maxwell developed for Kanaio and its kamaaina with a hula auwana to the mele I Aloha ia no i Kanaio. Shout out to Maui No Ka ‘Oe! After all Pele made good friends with the sun on that island, they even built a house together there, but Peleikalua had to move on and make her life on Hawaii Island with her sisters and her pig lover. Alas, Maui will come to her with a mele describing the slopes of Haleakala.

With gifts from one place to another and the boom kanani kane of Ke Kai O Kahiki, the Moku O Keawe Foundation is throwing it down to ring in the season of peace, play, and sharing. It will be very exciting, we’ll learn all kinds of skin-crawling goodness, and we’ll have the mother load of fun. Please come and celebrate hula with us – Moku O Keawe style!

Aloha,

Sage Takehiro & Moku O Keawe

www.mokif.com :: www.mokuokeawe.org :: www.twitter.com/mokif :: www.facebook.com/mokuokeawe

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