John W. E. K. Ka’imikaua a profound chanter, artist, storyteller, historian, writer, and well known Kumu Hula. At the age of 14, he learned the history, chants and dances of Moloka’i from a woman named Kawahinekapuheleikapokane who was 92 when he met her. After her passing he utilized his talents and the knowledge he acquired and began Halau Hula O Kukunaokala on November 18, 1977 for the purpose of teaching the undocumented, pre-western traditions of early Moloka’i through the ancient practice of chant, dance and oral history. In January 1998, an extension to the halau (dance academy), Halau Hula O Kukunaokala I Moloka’i was established as an educational organization for men within the community of Moloka’i.
John had many projects and dreams, many of which came into reality working with the community of Moloka’i and people in the Hawaiian community throughout the islands as well as those abroad. He retold and revived the stories, names and history to numerous sites on Moloka’i. With help of community members, he assisted in the re-establishment of the Ka Moloka’i Makahiki Festival.
John promoted the reforestation projects of Pu’u Nana and Lanikaula, where members in the community continue this lifelong activity. Through the efforts of both halau’s, John was instrumental towards the construction and completion the Pa Hula on Ka’ana. He has participated and advised many other significant cultural events throughout Hawai’i. His knowledge continues to be a beacon of light for Hawaiians today.
It became very important for John to document his knowledge for a film entitled “A Mau A Mau.” There were other films he was ask to participate in which continue to be sought by those interested in the history of hula and the traditions of the Hawaiian culture. As a songwriter he wrote many beautiful songs and in 1997, John released a recording of some of his original songs on a compact disc titled “Mai Ka Na’au Kuhohonu” to commemorate the 20 years existence of Halau Hula O Kukunaokala.
A spiritual giant, a man grounded with ke Akua and na kupuna. John viewed the hula as a vehicle to educate and enlighten all people about our ancestors through the early traditions of Hawaiian chant and dance. His objective with hula and the culture was to edify the cohesiveness of mind, body and spirit with ke Akua, na kupuna and the ‘aina. In his words, “the ancient chant and dance is sacred, the very words chanted from the mouths of our ancestors were purposely preserved by them in the ‘oli and mele for our time. The very movements and actions of our ancestors, who lived upon the land from the beginning of time, are preserved in the movements of the hula. The ancient chant and dance connects us to our ancestors and allows us to feel and to understand the life that they lived.”
It has been repeated and ingrained in each of his haumana (students) that all we learn and do in the halau will uplift and fulfill a purpose in each of our lives as we continue to share and live the wisdom and knowledge of our Hawaiian heritage. In our efforts to maintain the integrity of our Hawaiian heritage and culture and we remain pono with ke Akua in our daily life, we will be instrumental in paving the way for the present, the future and for those generations unborn. The future of the halau now rest in the hands of his wife, Ka’oi and all the members of Halau Hula O Kukunaokala. John loved his family and his extended family. He was especially fond of all kupuna and the many friends who came into his life. He too loved unconditionally a characteristic that infected everyone who knew him. He was relentless in promoting the Hawaiian way of life, its principles and values. May we continue to acknowledge the legacy he has left with all of us to carry forth into the future?
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