Hilo, Hawai‘i – In celebration of the 55th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center will host three days of cultural enrichment programming, Wednesday, April 4 through Friday, April 6. This series is organized annually at ‘Imiloa to complement and honor Merrie Monarch’s major purpose: the perpetuation, preservation and promotion of the art of hula and Hawaiian culture through education.
“We are thrilled to offer our community and visitors an opportunity to join us at ‘Imiloa and enjoy these culturally rich experiences. From beautiful stories delivered through the art of hula and chant to talking story with the inspiring crewmembers of Hōkūle‘a’s inaugural voyage in 1976 to Tahiti, we look forward to welcoming everyone!” says Ka‘iu Kimura, Executive Director of Imiloa Astronomy Center.
The opening day of events at ‘Imiloa, starting on Wednesday, April 4, showcases Kumu Puanani Alama, the gracious matriarch of the hula world. Kumu Alama began her life in hula at a young age and has never looked back! At 87-years old, she has surpassed seven decades of teaching, a record previously held by her sister, Leilani Alama (1925-2014). Join Hula Preservation Society for this special time with the last living judge from the very first Merrie Monarch Festival competition.
The afternoon session on April 4 at 1 p.m. will feature hula and mele by Hālau Hula I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo, Ke Kula o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u. They will share the mele lyrics ‘Ua Malu Kou Aupuni e ka Lani, ʻAʻohe Kupuʻeu, Nāna e ʻAʻe’— these lyrics honor Luka Keʻelikōlani, the great granddaughter of Kamehameha I, who was a steadfast advocate of the Hawaiian language and who served as governor of Hawaiʻi Island for nearly twenty years in the 19th century. It is through hula, research and learning mele (songs) from mentors that the students of Hālau I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo have been able to connect with their moʻolelo (story) to ensure these messages live on into perpetuity.
Hula Preservation Society brings together dancers from New York City’s famed Hawaiian Room to share their stories, on Thursday, April 5 at 10 a.m. From 1937-1966, hula and Hawaiian music were celebrated in New York City through this pioneering venue, the Hawaiian Room. Young Hawaiian talents brought their youthful spirits, energies and aloha to millions over the Room’s 30 years. Come meet these (now) elders who are still going strong in sharing their love of hula. Archival photos and clips from the documentary film “The Hawaiian Room” will be shared.
On Thursday, April 5 at 1 p.m., enjoy the afternoon meeting and talking story with members of the Hōkūle‘a Crew. This special panel presentation will feature participants who took part as crew and vital supporters of the 1976 voyage of the iconic Hawaiian double-hulled canoe, Hōkūleʻa, on its inaugural round trip voyage to Tahiti. The panel will be moderated by Captain Gordon Piʻianaiʻa, the captain of the leg from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi and its successful and triumphant return to Hawaiʻi. Crew members will recall the challenges of organizing and launching this daunting project and the return of the modern era of deep sea voyaging and the rebirth of traditional oceanic wayfinding. It is a story that will be retold live through the first hand experiences of those who lived this part of Hawai‘i’s history.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) proudly sponsors a presentation on Hula—the traditions and innovations of hula, as well as share on the globalization and change that hula has experienced throughout the years both here in Hawaiʻi and throughout the world. The Lālākea Foundation and Ka ʻAha Hula o Hālauaola will present a forum of discussion around these topics. This panel will be presented on Friday, April 6 at 10 a.m.
Culminating ‘Imiloa’s Merrie Monarch programming is a lively musical performance by Ho‘ā and the keiki of Project Kuleana, beginning at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 6. Hoʻā is comprised of Hilo’s own Kihei Nahale‘a, Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing and Sean Nāleimaile. Hoʻāʻs passion is to “ignite” the desire and action to perpetuate and care for “welo kupuna”—our linneal heritage as Hawaiian people, and in particular, Hawaiian music and all of its elements. Featured with Ho‘ā will be keiki from Project Kuleana. Project Kuleana was created by the three men of Hoʻā. Project Kuleana aspires to increase the innate value of Hawaiian music and inspire people to reflect on one’s own kuleana through the performance. Project Kuleana seeks to encourage people to re-discover, re-connect and re-instill what Hawaiian music and performers of Hawaiian music represent.
Pre-sale tickets for each Cultural Enrichment Program at ‘Imiloa are $10 ($8 for ‘Imiloa members.) Pre-sale tickets can be purchased at ‘Imiloa’s front desk, or over the phone by calling 808-932-8901. A limited supply of tickets will be available for purchase on the day of each event for $15.
As an added bonus, those with paid admissions to the Merrie Monarch Cultural Enrichment presentations will have the opportunity watch a planetarium show or enjoy the various interactive displays in the exhibition hall on the same day at the special price of only $5 per person. Proof of paid admission needs to be presented.