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Students produced an animation of the first 28 lines of the Kumulipo in recognition of the significance of this oli and building upon the oral traditions of our ancestors. It is the featured video on the Merrie Monarch website.

Animating the Kumulipo

Apr. 26, 2019

Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi has been producing a video for the Merrie Monarch for the past eight years. The video is featured on the website for the festival and shown during the festival’s “Backstage” segment on Hōʻike night.

For this year’s production, a group of seniors chose to create an animation depicting their interpretation of the first 28 lines of the 2,102 lines of the Kumulipo, a creation chant delivered in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

Much like one’s moʻokūauhau (genealogy), the oli is recited through oral tradition.

This sacred chant is significant because it tells the beginnings of the world and the life that resides in it through the eyes of our kūpuna (ancestors). The Kumulipo is what connects kānaka to the ʻāina; it confirms that the land we live on and the creatures that surround us are our ʻohana and that we should treat them as such.

Animation was chosen as the medium to best illustrate what has only been put into words. Through this modern depiction of the Kumulipo, students hope to educate the community on the origin of the world we’ve come to know.

Earlier this year, KSH '15 alumna Zoe Leonard, who was attending Dartmouth, created an art project from the Kumulipo, writing out all 2,102 lines. In a Facebook post, she decribed the experience as much more than just an art project, but as a confirmation that there is space for indigenous knowledge in Western education. 

"I still have so much more to learn, but writing out this oral genealogy and cosmogony ma ka ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi for an assignment at an Ivy League institution has been more powerful to me than I could have ever imagined," shared Leonard. 

Using the same pen, alumna Zoe Leonard wrote out all 2,102 lines of the Kumulipo for a project at Dartmouth College.

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