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Mo`olelo of Laka and `Olohe

Community Contributed

Editor’s Note: Molokai Ka Hula Piko is a three-day native Hawaiian cultural festival celebrating the birth of hula on Molokai.  Founded in 1991 by the late Kumu Hula John Kaimikaua, the festival continues to educate and enlighten all people of pre-Western Hawaii through excursions and a culminating celebration happening this year on June 4-6.  Each year a theme is chosen, and this year’s theme centers around the contributions of Laka and `Olohe.

By John Kaimikaua, contributed by Halau Hula o Kukunaokala

In Molokai tradition, the martial art form of lua evolved from out of the hula. Laka learned the art of the dance from her older sister Kapo`ulakina`u on the hill Pu`u Nana at Ka`ana on the top of Maunaloa, west Molokai. Laka was the older of twins born into the La`ila`i family. `Olohe was the name of Laka’s younger twin brother. When Laka was in training under her sister Kapo`ulakina`u she learned and embraced the movements of the dance for life and preservation. `Olohe also trained under his sister Kapo`ulakina`u with Laka. Unlike his sister’s teaching, `Olohe was inspired and utilized the movements of the dance for death and protection.

In this interval of time, the martial art form of lua evolved through `Olohe. He utilized each step of the dance as a form of protection. Prior to this time the movements of the dance were used only for life and preservation. The hula existed generations before the lua. The lua came later from out of the movements of the dance through `Olohe.

Only men trained in the lua whereas, in the hula men and women trained. In Molokai tradition, the training of hula and lua were parallel. Individuals trained in hula and lua for fourteen years. Kuahu, altar, were built in both lua and hula schools and adorned with the same forest plants. The only difference; in the hula, the kuahu was dedicated to Laka, and in the lua the kuahu was dedicated to `Olohe. The same 98 footsteps taught in the dance were the same footsteps taught in the lua. As an example, the uwehe in the hula is a familiar step to all students of the hula. The uwehe in the lua was utilized by taking a man’s head; thrusting it between the knees and uwehe thereby, cracking the skull of the enemy.

In battle, lua experts in combat appeared to be dancing. The fluid movements of defense were the movements of the dance. If a man trained only in the lua, he had the ability to dance. And if a man trained only in the hula, he had the ability to defend himself on the battlefield.

Vast were the styles of dance reserved for men in the hula traditions of ancient Molokai. One of the outward signs of strength of a people by ancient Molokai standards is seen in the ability of its men to utilize the sacred movements of dance as an act of reverence and devotion to one’s ancestors, historic past and connection to the natural environment. The dignity, strength, and power of men in the movement of the dance is an important connection to our ancestral past that we as contemporary Hawaiians are needful to restore and maintain. In this time of cultural restoration the need for more examples of the masculinity, dignity, strength and power of ancient male dancing is needful to come to the forefront among the hula community. In this time of great transition, the awesome masculinity and spiritual power of true ancient Hawaiian male dancing is a vital, cultural awareness, strength, pride, direction and keen sense of wellbeing and purpose of life.

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