Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, August 3, 1998

By Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Bulletin
Noe Kaiu performs "Kaulilua" as kumu hula
John Kaha'i Topolinski plays the drums.

100 years

Hula pageant marks
annexation centennial

By Kekoa Catherine Enomoto


A turn-of-the-century chant likens annexationist Lorrin Andrews Thurston to a scorpion. The chant is part of "La Ho'olilo," a hula pageant marking the Aug. 12, 1998, centennial of Hawaii's annexation.

"The chant compares Thurston to Satan, and to a scorpion that attacks their own in vengeance," said kumu hula John Renken Kaha'iali'iokaiwi'ulao-kamehameha Kauauaamahikalaniki'eki'eokohala Topolinski. He wrote and directed "La Ho'olilo," in which his Ka Pa Hula Hawai'i halau premieres for modern audiences the "Pala Mai'a" (rotten bananas) chant. Its verses also use sexual metaphor -- common in Hawaiian art forms -- in reference to Thurston.

"There's a lot of innuendo about what he was doing to Hawaii, put in sexual terms," Topolinski said. "You know, like he's screwing us over -- but it's nicely put."

Besides Ka Pa Hula Hawai'i, the show features Topolinski's peers in the late kumu hula Maiki Aiu Lake's Halau Hula O Maiki Papa 'Uniki Lehua (Lehua graduating class). Five Oahu halau perform -- Halau Kealakapawa, and kumu hula Michael Canopin; Halau Mohala 'Ilima, and kumu hula Mapuana de Silva; Ka Pa Hula O Kauanoe O Wa'ahila, and kumu hula Maelia Loebenstein; Na Pualei O Likolehua, and kumu hula Leina'ala Kalama Heine; and Pua Ali'i 'Ilima, and kumu hula Victoria Holt Takamine. The Big Island is represented by Halau O Kekuhi, and na kumu hula Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele and Nalani Kanaka'ole.

Topolinski's favorite pageant scene is reminiscent of the recently reported estrangement between Princess Abigail Kawananakoa and former 'Iolani Palace curator Jim Bartels over palace authority.

The pageant scene reenacts a confrontation between King David Kalakaua and Queen Emma, after the 1874 elections elevated Kalakaua to the Hawaiian throne. Emma's supporters were storming the kingdom's courthouse.

By Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Bulletin
Marc Miyamoto performing the "He Mele Hulu No Kapi'olani Waimanalo."

"It shows them in a human light, that they were both set on the same goals to keep the kingdom independent, but they had a difference of methodology," Topolinski said. "Emma was very, very indignant. He asked her to stop the rioting or he would bring in the American marines. She did so reluctantly, but she did not promise anything."

Another favorite scene depicts Queen Lili'uokalani chanting at annexation about 'alalauwa -- a red swarm of young 'aweoweo fish, an omen of royal death. She chants that 'alalauwa had appeared earlier upon the death of her beloved hanai sister, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

"It's interesting that I should focus on women," Topolinski observed. "I've always believed that women are the strength of family, society and culture. For these two women to be politically inclined was totally ahead of their time. They were both strong, well educated and proud to be representatives of their people ... Women are very influential, I listen to my wife more than anything else."

Topolinski had tried to stage the show seven years ago, and then again three years ago. He finally unveils the production 100 years to the day after the Aug. 12, 1898, annexation of Hawaii by the United States.

His multilayered production combines drama, dance, music, costumes, history, even protest, to recreate the time, place and emotion of annexation. He dedicated the work to his maternal grandparents, Ernest Valentine Holbron Renken and Elizabeth Kapeka Kaleilokeokaha'i Cummins Mersberg Kekahio.

His grandparents' generation was most impacted by annexation, so "I always feel their presence about 3 or 4 in the morning, when I'm writing the script. Some of the feelings are so momentous. I felt them guiding my pen as I wrote the script ... The memory of them is fading fast and fleeting, but I've felt close to them in writing this pageant."

Sighing quietly, Topolinski said the show was a year and a half in planning and his halau's 80 members fund-raised for three-fourths of the more than $30,000 needed to stage the production.

"A halau hula has deeper dimensions than hula. This (program) is to showcase to the public what Ka Pa has, and to make the public aware of our commitment and the depth of our (Hawaiian) people."



Kumu hula John Kaha'i Topolinski directs 200 participants in eight halau, including his Ka Pa Hula Hawai'i, in his original "La Ho'olilo" pageant commemorating the centennial of Hawaii's annexation.
bullet Where: Hawai'i Theatre
bullet When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12; music prelude at 6:30 p.m.
bullet Cost: $21 and $26
bullet Call: 528-0506

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