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KS Maui kindergartners rehearse their hula for Ka Hōʻike on Friday, May 17 in Kahekili Gymnasium.

KS Maui Māhele Lalo haumāna celebrate return of hōʻike by honoring ancestors

May 16, 2024

It has been four years since Kamehameha Schools Maui Māhele Lalo welcomed mākua on campus for a kindergarten through fifth-grade mele and hula performance.

The elementary campus has held an annual May Day or hōʻike performance since the school opened in 1996 but like many events, it had been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was unfortunate we didn’t have a hōʻike all these years, but it was a good opportunity to revamp and rethink why we do certain things,” said Hulali Phillips, a Hawaiian Studies kumu for grades three through five. “We thought about how can we deepen the learning in this hōʻike and use hula as a vehicle of learning to deepen haumāna understanding of each mele and to learn more about Maui and our ʻāina kūpuna.”

Thanks to the collective efforts of kumu and limahana, as well as the haumāna of māhele lalo, the campus is bringing back “Ka Hōʻike” on Friday, May 17 at 9:15 a.m. in Kahekili Gymnasium.

“It’s been a long journey,” Phillips said. “We focused a lot on hōʻike during the school day but most of our regular classroom workload, we do in the evening hours. Our haumāna are so excited. They’re not only excited about hōʻike but also about what they’ve learned.”

A core aspect of the revitalized event focuses on showcasing the teachings and research haumāna learned throughout the school year. Each class is represented by a different ʻāina and mele that explores the different areas where Native Hawaiians are from in celebration of the event’s theme: ʻĀina kūpuna.

“ʻĀina kūpuna sheds light on the places we come from,” said kumu Naupaka Joaquin, who teaches K-2 Hawaiian studies. “It’s not just Maui.”

Many classes identified areas and mele that resonated with them, including the kindergarten class honoring Lahaina with the mele “Puamana,” as a way to pay tribute to classmates and kumu who experienced loss in different ways.

“That class, in particular, may have endured personal trauma of different levels,” Joaquin said of the grade level, which also includes kindergarten kumu Cathy Honda, to which they pay tribute with their mele.

As the various classes identified their areas, haumāna would research and investigate the history of the place and its historical names. Kumu Joaquin explained that the first-grade class researched Kula and was surprised to learn about its size.

“They didn’t know that Kīhei is actually a part of Kula,” she said. “We further investigated and found it used to be referred to as Kula Kai but is now called Kīhei. Kula is not just Upcountry, but it’s a moku that takes us down from the mountains to the ocean. They got super excited by how vast Kula is.”

Class research also included site visits to their places as well as hearing from guest speakers and groups, such as the Maui Invasive Species Committee, which highlighted the danger of coconut rhinoceros beetles on coconut and oil palm trees in Hawaiʻi.

“I didn’t realize it would change my curriculum,” Joaquin said of the event. “Having the community involved and inviting experts or even our own kumu was a lot of effort but everyone jumped in.”

“It was definitely a different school year but I think that’s what makes it unique.”

KS Maui Māhele Lalo Kumu Evan Jenkins (from left to right), Kumu Naupaka Joaquin and Kumu Hulali Phillips have been instrumental in putting on Ka Hōʻike.

Decorations and backdrops were also created for Ka Hōʻike under the direction of kumu Evan Jenkins and two Hawaiian studies kumu. The three teachers have been developing the four-way quilt banners for the event since November – each hand-dyed individually.

“My wife is an avid dyer and uses natural pigments in her process, so I used her knowledge,” Jenkins said. “In working with kumu Naupaka and Hulali the process was very intuitive. Much of what they have learned in their own hula hālau came out in our conversations and the creative process.”

“There definitely were some experimenting and happy accidents with the colors that we were able to create.”

ʻŌlena was used to create yellow, aloalo for pink, ʻuki ʻuki berries for purple and ʻalaea for red. They created 14 banners to hang in the gymnasium for the performances.

“I hope the haumāna see how art can be utilized in a music and dance performance, and how it enhances the space through visual imagery,” Jenkins said.

Music kumu Clarke Tuitele, who has been the elementary school’s music teacher for the past 22 years, said he was proud of the effort that was put into organizing the event. He recalled leading May Day when he first joined the school and how important it was for haumāna to experience the performance-based event.

“Different kids learn in different ways,” kumu Tuitele said. “Some through mele or drawing, and some through dance. This gives an opportunity to those who are more performance-based a chance to shine and express themselves with their emotions and face. It’s very interesting because as I look at these kids, I see a love for hula and that’s kudos to those teachers.”

Tuitele’s daughter Kayla KSM’18 found her passion in mele and hula while attending KS Maui and wrote an original song for her senior project. Her mele “Nā Kūkuluokalani” will be sung by the elementary school for the first time to parents during Friday’s performance.

The event will also honor two kumu who were instrumental in organizing the event since the campus opened: Ivalee Kamalu and Aunty Flo Keala. Both recently passed away.

“We recognize and honor the foundation they set before us,” Phillips said.

When asked what she hopes haumāna take away from the event, Phillips said she hopes the performance will “ignite their fire and passion for learning about their kūpuna” and that they will continue to dance hula.

“I hope we continue to have hōʻike,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our families to see our haumāna. Not every haumāna dances hula outside of school but I would love for them to see them practice their culture.”

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