Prince Lot’s Hula Tree
Many of the Kamehamehas were staunch Christians, points out Chang, and being a Kamehameha, it was unusual for Prince Lot to go against the progressive grain.
While he will not be performing at the festival, Chang, who once taught with Robert Cazimero and also at Kamehameha Schools, says he’s just happy to support his hula family in carrying on the particular traditional style passed onto them by their kumu.
Far from the prying eyes of missionaries, Prince Lot revived hula in Moanalua Valley. Five kumu hula whose roots go back to that crucial time will be honored during Saturday's Prince Lot Hula Festival at Moanalua Gardens. Pictured (from left) are Wayne Chang, Vicky Holt Takamine, Robert Cazimero and John Kaha'i Topolinski. Not picured is Leina'ala Kalama Heine. Together they are branches in Lot's hula tree | Photo by Nathalie Walker
“Kumu Maiki loved Moanalua,” he says. “A lot of the appreciation we have came from her. She always danced the song Moanalua and her students always danced that — it was in honor of Lot and (Moanalua Valley).
“I tell you, it was so wonderful (performing in the early days of the festival), not being in a competitive situation. Competition takes a lot out of you. Moanalua was just joyful. People came here and it was a picnic all day.”
This year, the festival will again make for an all-day picnic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Prince Lot attracts up to 10,000 guests annually, with food on sale throughout the day to keep attendees well-nourished. There is no entrance fee, but MGF encourages visitors to purchase souvenir T-shirts and buttons to offset the cost of the festival.
The five kumu being honored help hula prosper, not just at home, but beyond our shores. They have served as judges at prestigious hula competitions from Merrie Monarch to events on the Mainland and internationally. Some have performed with their halau across the globe, or even founded halau outside of Oahu. Vicky Holt Takamine, for instance, after graduating as kumu hula in 1975, formed halau Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima in 1977, and subsequently founded halau Papa Laua’e O Makana on Kauai. She also recently opened an extension of her halau in New York, Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima o Nuioka.
In addition to overseeing their halau, all five kumu wear a variety of hats. Takamine has a master’s in dance ethnology from UH and is a lecturer at the University’s music department. She firmly advocates for Native Hawaiian rights and the protection of Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources. One of her most passionate undertakings is PA’I Foundation, an arts organization that works toward preserving and perpetuating Hawaiian cultural traditions for future generations.
Prince Lot: A Venue for Sharing History And Culture Kumu Leina’ala Kalama Heine, whose halau Na Pualei O Likolehua will be performing at the Prince Lot festival, says it’s precisely the relaxed atmosphere of Moanalua Gardens and sharing camaraderie with other halau that makes the festival so enjoyable. Her emphasis is on place:
“This venue is a great plus, with the focus being the importance of this area and its history.”
MGF, she says, retains expert advisers and historians who constantly share new mele and stories that offer additional insight into the treasured valley.
“Hawaii’s history and culture are shared through our mele chants and songs,” says Heine, and she knows something about history, having taught Hawaiian history through chant and dance at St. Andrews Priory. She loved her “temporary” position teaching the keiki so much that the interim gig stretched into an 18-year labor of love. In addition to teaching, Heine also has made guest appearances with fellow honoree Robert Cazimero and his Brothers Cazimero on occasion.
Passing on the Torch
Cazimero himself will have the distinction of opening this year’s Prince Lot festival. The Grammy-nominated recording artist and Hoku winner, and overall winner of the 2005 Merrie Monarch with his halau Na Kamalei, barely needs an introduction.
As much as being a community tribute to a place, culture and history, Cazimero says the annual hula tribute festival is just as much a personal and individual experience in “remembering the past and supporting the future.”
With inspired students such as kumu Patrick Makuakane and filmmaker Keo Woolford (The Haumana), Cazimero is doing his part to pass the torch. If Prince Lot and Maiki Aiu are responsible for helping the hula tradition continue burning brightly, a third revival is at hand, says Cazimero:
“I have been witness to what I would call, in my mind and in my gut, the coming of the third renaissance. We started the second one, even though we weren’t aware of it, back in the early ’70s, but what kids are doing today is the puana of it, the echo, the continuation. In all aspects of culture, from language to hula and music, there is a complete perpetuation, a new growth of kalo that’s coming from the lo’i. And I am so fortunate to be witness to it.”
And so the story continues as the baton is passed. Come share in witnessing the active perpetuation of cultural dissemination between teacher and student, while also honoring these five worthy hula masters at the 37th annual Prince Lot Hula Festival. Bring beach chairs and mats for a day at one of the most beautiful settings on Oahu, for some of Hawaii’s choicest entertainment, which as we’ve learned, is far more than entertainment. It’s the heart and soul of the people and their flourishing culture.
For more information, call 839-5334 or visit moanaluagardensfoundation.org.