Annual Kupuna Hula Celebration

Friendly Isle gathering features cultural talents of island elders.

Na Wahine U`i O Molokai members danced a beautiful hula about a tutu who has kindness and love.





By Jennifer Smith

Molokai and Maui kupuna enjoyed last weekend two evenings of hula and ukulele entertainment. For the 12th year in a row, the annual Na Hula Ku`i Pa`ina celebration brought together old friends, while providing attendees the opportunity to mix, mingle and make new friends.

“It is all about the fun. That’s life, that’s the joy of life,” said Richard K. Hoopii Sr. master of ceremonies and Grammy nominee. It is a way for kupuna to let go and enjoy themselves, he said.

The celebration featured six hula groups, performing three types of hula: hula kui (steps), hula noho (sitting) and hula olapa (kahiko, a more traditional hula).

“I give credit to kupuna at that age who continue to practice the culture aspect, and who continue to grow,” Hoopii Sr. said.

Children can “come and see grandma continuing to do the things she used to do … and bond as an ohana and be proud of whatever group they may come from,” Hoopii Sr. said, describing the program as a family-friendly event.

Nearly 200 kupuna and family members attended the Mitchell Pau`ole Center performance last Saturday night. Audience members sang along to old favorites, as beautifully adorned hula dancers graced the stage.

The first performers, Na Wahine U`i O Molokai have danced together for about five years. The 10 dancers and five musicians practiced for three months to prepare for the Ku`i Pa`ina event.

“We enjoy dancing and we love the company. It provides us with exercise and keeps our minds alert,” Na Wahine dancer Irene Iwane said.

The group described the event with smiles on their faces, as they mentioned receiving several compliments from Maui groups. 

The Na Hula Ku`i Pa`ina program celebrates the talent, wisdom and fun of kupuna who continue to practice the culturally-rich dance. “Just to see if we still got it or not,” Hoopii Sr. said with a laugh.

“It’s about respecting who they are, and to continue to give them credit for who they are,” Hoopii Sr. said.

Any kupuna can participate, “it doesn’t matter what race, color or creed you are, the only qualification is being 60 years of age,” Hoopii Sr. said. “We want to spread it so all of the islands can participate.”

Molokai’s Na Kupuna O Molokai, Na Wahine U`i O Molokai, E Hula Nani E; and Maui’s Na Hula Kupuna O Kaunoa, No Na Kupuna Lokelani and Na Kupuna Kihei ame Lahaina all participated in the 12th Anniversary Celebration.

Mahalo to Auntie Viola Hanaike, Pat Rocca, Richard K. Hoopii Sr. and Alexander Bishaw Sr. for their help in making the event a success. Mahalo also to the sponsors the Menehune of the Kupuna and the County of Maui Department of Parks & Recreation for their support.




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