Hula is one of the many arts presented at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua's Annual Celebration of the Arts late this month.

Kapalua arts fest
embraces nature

Protecting resources is a focus
of the program at the Ritz-Carlton

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Easter symbolizes renewal and rebirth, so it's fitting that the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's 10th annual Celebration of the Arts will feature a slate of new programs.

Taking place over Easter weekend, March 28-31, this event will still, as its name implies, offer demonstrations of traditional Hawaiian arts such as tapa making, coconut frond weaving and pahu (drum) carving, and, as in the past, the Celebration Luau and Show, Celebration Concert (headlined by Henry Kapono, Kekuhi Kanahele and the Brothers Cazimero) and Easter Sunday Champagne Brunch will surely draw crowds once again.

But in keeping with its theme this year, "Keauhou: A New Era," Celebration of the Arts will introduce activities that reflect an even stronger commitment to honor, teach and perpetuate things Hawaiian. "Many of us have forgotten to 'think island,'" asserts Clifford Naeole, the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's cultural adviser and organizer of the event. "We live on a finite source. Once we have abused and used whatever sustains us on this land, we are certainly doomed. The theme 'Keauhou: A New Era' shares an awareness that needs to be acknowledged by all, lest we perish by our own hands. This awareness covers spiritual, physical, ecological, moral and economical agendas."

Among the new offerings are three excursions that illustrate the intricacies of the Hawaiian ahupuaa (land divisions from the mountains to the sea), and how everything and everyone in these ahupuaa were dependent upon the others for survival.

A children's learning center immerses keiki in Hawaiian culture.

The Kapunakea Preserve Hike covers an area in the West Maui Mountain highlands that is not normally open to the public. Guide Iokepa Naeole, Clifford's brother, is a Hawaiian language teacher at Baldwin High School and the outreach and volunteers coordinator for the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii's Maui office. The Nature Conservancy is the steward of Kapunakea, a biological and cultural wonderland that harbors an array of indigenous plants that were important in everyday life in ancient Hawaii.

According to Clifford Naeole, the hike will enable participants to "see Maui through a different set of eyes. Chants and protocol are followed prior to entering the forest. Plants, animals, birds, etc., are associated with legends, music and their overall value to the Hawaiians of old."

Another excursion will focus on the tiny village of Kahakuloa, in a midland region along Maui's northwest coast. Although electricity, solar, phones and running water are all in place here, life remains linked to the past and a reverence for the land, sea, music, religion and family.

Sign up for "Kahakuloa ... Practicing Yesterday, Today," and you'll meet taro farmer Oliver Dukelow, who toils in his ancestors footsteps. You'll walk through his loi (irrigated terraces), learn about taro's importance to the Hawaiians and discuss the critical issue of water rights for the native Hawaiian farmer.

In the lowlands the clear waters and protective reefs of Honolua Bay are home to a myriad of undersea creatures. Unfortunately, man's interest in this beautiful, serene marine sanctuary may be causing some negative side effects.

"There has been damage to the reefs from anchors," Naeole said. "Feeding by humans may be changing fishes' natural cycles and habits, and man's intent to stock indoor aquariums may be endangering tropical fish populations."

The "Honolua Bay Eco-Snorkel," led by Hannah Bernard, director of education for the Maui Ocean Center, will present an enlightening look at this underwater paradise in peril.

"Moonlight Moolelo (Storytelling)," a popular monthly program at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, is being offered at Celebration of the Arts for the first time this year. A respected group of kupuna (elders) has been invited to "talk story" about the Hawaii of yesteryear. This promises to be an emotional session because many of these old-timers lived through a period when being "Hawaiian" was frowned upon.

"I have been told how their parents and grandparents were punished for following Hawaiian ways," notes Naeole. "The Hawaiian renaissance has afforded them the chance to finally come forward and share their feelings."

Meanwhile, kids will make wonderful discoveries at Ke Kula Kamalii (Children's Learning Center). Previously, Celebration of the Arts' keiki activities revolved around games. "Now," says Naeole, "we have chosen to educate by methods used by our Hawaiian immersion schools, which teach only in Hawaiian."

Overseeing the center will be Robyn Naeole and Lehua Maddela, Clifford's sisters, who are both well versed in Hawaiian history, culture and language. Assisting them with art projects, storytelling, displays and more will be students from Kula Kaiapuni, a Hawaiian immersion school with programs at Paia Elementary School, Samuel E. Kalama Intermediate School and King Kakaulike High School on Maui.

Naeole envisions a positive, memorable experience for all. "The students of immersion will have the opportunity to teach newcomers what they have learned," he points out. "Our young visitors, on the other hand, will enjoy activities that should increase their awareness of the Hawaiian culture and language."

And that, after all, is the primary goal of Celebration of the Arts. Sums up Naeole, "Education leads to awareness, which in turn inspires accountability, which will ultimately ensure the survival of our people, land, ocean and culture."

10th Annual Celebration of the Arts

Place: The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Maui, 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive

When: March 28 to 31

Admission: Seminars, Children's Learning Center, hula performances, film presentations and artists' demonstrations are free (there is a nominal fee for materials for some demonstrations).

Costs for other major events are as follows: Moonlight Moolelo, $12; Kapunakea Preserve Hike, $50 (15 hikers maximum); Celebration Luau and Show, $65 for adults, $35 for children age 12 and under; Honolua Bay Eco-Snorkel, $50, including transportation, snorkel gear and a picnic lunch (15-person maximum); "Kahakuloa ... Practicing Yesterday, Today," $50, including transportation and a snack (15-person maximum); Celebration Concert, $20 pre-sale, $25 at the door; Easter Sunday Champagne Brunch, $65 for adults, $35 for children ages 12 and under.

Web site:

Miscellaneous: A kamaaina Celebration of the Arts package includes accommodations, daily buffet breakfast for two, Celebration Luau and Show tickets for two, Celebration Concert tickets for two, one signed Celebration of the Arts keepsake poster, and shuttle service within Kapalua Resort and between the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and the Kapalua-West Maui airport. The cost is $290 per night for garden-view accommodations, double, based on a two-night minimum stay between March 27 and 31. Call 808-665-7086 on Maui or 800-262-8440 from the other islands.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer.

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