Molokai’s past is reborn in the present.
By Brandon Roberts
‘The heartbeat of our culture is dance. It is the essence of ourselves. Every movement in the universe is in our dance,’ wrote the late John Ka`imikaua, Ka Hula Piko founder. Hula dates back to the Eighth Century, where a Molokai wahine named La`ila`i is said to have given birth to the dance at Ka`ana on the hill Pu`u Nana..
In its 17th year, Ka Hula Piko is creating a new identity. To honor their Kumu Hula Ka`imikaua, the Halau Hula O Kukunaokala’s sunrise ceremony atop Maunaloa was private this year. Kumu Ka`imikaua’s haumana Sulu Tafaoimalo said “we are starting over, please respect that, and next year the ceremony may again be open to the public.”
The hula festival spanned the grounds of Papohaku Beach Park with around one thousand `ohana and malahini, who migrating across the park seeking the cooling shade of the kiawe trees. Spectators saw a spectrum of hula, from cute keiki of Halau Hula O Kilohana to the showmanship of Aunty Moana’s Halau, and into deep Molokai mo`olelo from the kane of Halau Hula O Kukunaokala.
This year’s theme was Molokai He `Aina Momona No (Molokai, a fertile land indeed), which reflects mo`olelo of the prophecy of Pakui Heiau – it tells how the old system of the ali`i will fall and how the people will return to the lo`i kalo (taro patches) and the loki i`a (fishponds). The prophecy was presented in `oli and hula by Halau Hula O Kukunaokala.
Tafaoimalo, now the po`o (head) of Halau Hula O Kukunaokala, addressed Saturday’s crowd with a benevolent message; “Don’t just take, give back to the people, spiritually give back.” He said the event would “keep our kumu’s legacy going.”
Kumu Ka`imikaua left the kuleana of perpetuating Molokai’s mo`olelo to Vanda Hanakahi and her sister Opu`ulani Albino, both of whom were raised deep in Molokai tradition. When he introduced the sisters to his halau, he called them the “last of the kupuna”.
To carry this tradition, Hanakahi gathered a group of people wanting more than Hawaiian beaches and restaurants; she took those seeking the `ike (knowledge) of Molokai to the sacred ahupua`a of Ka`amola. Accompanied by Ka`imikaua’s halau, Hanakahi shared the mo`olelo of Mana`e.
Hanakahi’s knowledge seems to know no depths, Her mo`olelo is shared with a ha`aha`a (humbleness) that is as natural as the ripples of an ocean wave. “Hula is a visual record of Hawaiian history,” she concludes.