Friday, July 27, 2001

State Rep. Helene Hale made an uliuli, or gourd rattle,
in a workshop yesterday leading up to the World
Conference on Hula, which starts Sunday.

Ancient ritual
opens hula meet

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> An ancient ceremony never before seen in public will open the weeklong World Conference on Hula this Sunday in Hilo.

The thousand participants in the conference -- from as far away as Germany -- will join in the ceremony at a hula kuahu, an altar dedicated to the hula goddess Laka.

Part of the ceremony will be the offering on the wooden altar of plants linked to hula, said conference assistant Kehaulani Kekua of Kauai.

Much of hula is derived from nature, she explained. For example, hula movements are inspired by the motion of plants in the wild. Different plants were thought to be different embodiments of Laka.

If hula was to be performed in a temple, then nature, which inspired the hula, should also be brought to the temple, Kekua said.

The opening ceremony illustrates the theme of the conference, which is deepening of understanding of hula.

The conference, put on by 120 presenters, features topics ranging from dyes from native plants to "chants and songs of ridicule."

It also features acquiring skills in making implements like drums, rattles and mats used in performances.

Thirteen pre-conference workshops on such "ponohula" as implements, clothing and adornments began yesterday.

One of the people taking a workshop on making gourd rattles, called uliuli, was state Rep. Helene Hale (D, Puna-Kau).

"I always go to these things. I'm very interested in Hawaiian culture," Hale said.

As the equivalent of Hawaii County mayor in 1964, Hale sent county employees Gene Wilhelm and George Naope to a whaling festival on Maui to see if they could think of a similar event for Hilo, she said.

They returned and started the Merrie Monarch hula festival.

Kekua noted events such as Merrie Monarch focus on competition and the dance itself, while the conference provides more background.

But the conference also includes performances Monday through Thursday, 7 to 9 p.m. at Edith Kanakaole Stadium, open to the public for $2.

A special performance of "Kilohi, Na Akua Wahine," hula about legendary female figures, will be Friday night at the UH-Hilo theater.

Tickets are $25 each and are available only through conference participants.

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