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Hula Festival celebrates Hawai'i's culture
by Jenny Lundahl, editor

The sun was at its peak. The mountain breeze slowly swayed the branches of the mango trees. The colorful hula dancers swung their hips and arms to the rhythm of the ipu and the traditional Hawaiian chants. Nine hula halaus offered a magical experience when the Moanalua Gardens Foundation presented the annual Prince Lot Hula Festival on July 20.

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From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the public had a chance to taste, free of charge, Hawaiian culture through dancing, food booths, and arts and handicrafts. The food included everything from Kalua pork to malasadas, with Pizza Hut for the less curious ones. The art booths offered handicrafts such as Hawaiian quilts and hats, leis, clothes, and jewelry.

The public even had a chance to be interactive with Hawaiian culture through a booth where anyone, for a small fee, could learn how to make an ipu. The ipu, a small drum, is named after the Hawaiian bottle gourd that once grew all over the islands. Traditionally, the ipu was not just an instrument accompanying hula; it was also used to make bowls, masks, helmets, cups, and shovels.

At another stand, visitors had an opportunity to learn about and try the ancient Hawaiian form of massage, Lomilomi. Lomilomi was, and still is, used as an art of healing and it differs from other types of massage partly because the receiver lies on the floor on a mat and because the massage is done with fingers, palms, elbow strokes, and the feet—meaning the masseuse walks on the receiver’s back. People once sought Lomilomi as treatment for many different conditions including fractures, upset stomach, internal disorders, dislocations, and childbirth. Today many just seek relaxation for a stressed body.

This year, the Queen Emma Hawaiian Civic Club demonstrated traditional pa‘ani kahiko (Hawaiian games). Hawaiians played games not just for enjoyment and amusement, but also for physical training to prepare for hunting and warfare. Some of the games displayed were ‘O‘o ihe (spear throwing), Hakoko (standing wrestling), Ulu maika (rolling stone disks), and Pala‘ie (loop and ball).

The annual festival honors Prince Lot Kapuaiwa who reigned as King Kamehameha V from 1863-1872. During this time, Christian missionaries convinced Christianized royalty to make hula illegal. In spite of this, Prince Lot hosted several lu‘aus (dinner parties) at his cottage in Moanalua Gardens where hula and mele entertained his guests.

In 1874, when King David Kalakua came to the throne, he made hula legal again, restoring the tradition so that it could grow and evolve. During this time, the ukulele was introduced, borrowed from the Portuguese immigrants, and with it the steel guitar. Still, the most important element in hula is the chanting. Many chants tell the tales of Pele, the fiery goddess from the Big Island, who was in love with the chanter Lohi‘au from Kaua‘i. The legend that locates Moloka‘i as the birthplace of Hawaiian hula tells about La‘ila‘i who came to Hawai‘i from the Marquesas.

Thanks to hula halaus, hula competition, and hula festivals such as this one, Hawaiian culture is kept alive and passed on to the next generation of both Hawaiians and the public.
Sources:, http://



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