Kumu hula honor their teacher, and Merrie Monarch Fest co-founder, George Na’ope
Hilo, Hawaii – Video by David Corrigan
Organizers of the Merrie Monarch Festival added a special tribute to the late hula master, George Na’ope, to the Sunday Ho’olaulea event kickoff in Hilo.
Famous local hula halaus and their kumu hula (who have trained under Naope in the past) performed at the event, which was free to the public. The tribute was held on a rainy evening, after 6 hours of hula were already performed earlier in the day at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
The Ho’olaulea is the traditional start to the Merrie Monarch Festival. This year, in light Uncle George’s passing last fall, the festival held the tribute in accordance with the wishes of Dottie Thompson – the other co-founder of the festival who also died only a few short weeks ago.
Among the halau paying respects to Uncle George, was Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani, whose kumu hula Rea Fonseca passed away less then 24 hours after Aunty Dottie died. Fonseca’s halau was scheduled to compete in the 2010 Merrie Monarch, and that has not changed since the kumu hulas’ sudden death. In light of the passing of all three hula legends, the theme the 2010 Merrie Monarch Festival seems to be adopted as “the show must go on.”
Also paying homage to Uncle George with special hula tributes: Halau O Kou Lima Nani E under kumu Iwalani Kalima, Ka Hula O Ka Moana Pakipika uner the direction of kumu Tisalona Kalili, Halau Hula Na Pua U’i O Hawai’i under kumu Etua Lopes, Halau Na Pua O Uluhaimalama under kumu Emery Aceret, and Lori Lei’s Hula Studio and Wai’ohinu Hula Studio under kumu Lori Lei Shirakawa.
Slack key guitar legend Cyril Pahinui also took the stage to honor Na’ope, as Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani danced hula to his Hawaiian music.
The festival will showcase a number of hula performances scattered throughout Hilo, but the big events begin on Wednesday with the Ho’ike, and then 3 nights of competition.