Noted kumu hulaA celebrated kumu hula whose Hula Halau 'O Kamuela dominated the wahine portion of the Merrie Monarch hula festival for the last four years and won the overall title at this year's competition has died, friends said.
Paleka Leina'ala MattosBusinessman Marvin Shelby
helped Hula Halau 'O Kamuela
win the Merrie Monarch
By Diana Leone
Paleka Leina'ala Mattos died in her sleep yesterday afternoon at her home in Salt Lake, said Paulie Jennings, producer of the World Invitational Hula Festival.
Mattos' cause of death was not known yesterday and her age was unavailable.
"Everything I do is very traditional," Mattos told the Star-Bulletin in April at the Merrie Monarch Festival.
"What I've done is brought it up to the present time so people can understand it. People say it's 'today's hula.' It's not today's hula. Everything I've done was done a long time ago, and what I've done is upgrade it and make it look like something different."
With that something different, her halau from Kalihi and Waimanalo which she led with her brother Kunewa Mook, was this year's overall winner, with first place in wahine overall, wahine kahiko and wahine 'auana.
"I think she was a phenomenal lady. She was very, very competitive and has been very strong in hula protocol," Jennings said. "She was very determined. She had stick-to- it-iveness."
"I admired her work. She was very good. She'd been very faithful and diligent in supporting the Merrie Monarch. Winning or not she was always there to support the Merrie Monarch," said Coline Aiu, kumu of Halau Hula O Maiki.
"One of the things that stands out is the swinging of the ti leaf skirts and the yellow plumeria," Aiu said. "I'm sure the people of Waimanalo will grieve -- that was her stronghold."
Karen Aiu, kumu of Halau Hawaii, said Mattos' students will feel the loss most.
"The students will find within themselves such an emptiness of missing that one person," Aiu said. "She encouraged a lot of young women to follow with their heart, this part of our culture."
Michael Dela Cruz, kumu of Na Opio O Koolau, said he has known Mattos since 1980. Her passing, he said, "will be a big loss for the people who never met her yet. She didn't have time to share all the knowledge she had.
"If you ask, she gives," Dela Cruz said. "If she came to share with our halau, she shared more than the hula, but the love and caring. ... Hawaii has lost one of the greatest and most kindest kumu."
Survivors and funeral plans were not available yesterday.
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