“Poliʻahu” at the Bishop Museum, Dec. 19, 1955. Kawena Pukui, Kaʻupena Wong, and Pele Pukui Suganuma. Bishop Museum Visual Collection.

essays from our mm factsheet archives

poliahu

Hula Kahiko 2018

Māpuana learned “Poliʻahu” from  Pat Namaka Bacon (Aunty Maka) on June 21, 1986, at Keahi Allen’s SCHH workshop at Kalōpā, Hawaiʻi.  Aunty Maka explained that her mother Mary Kawena Pukui composed it for Maka’s sister Pele Suganuma to dance in the mid-1950s, partly as a response to the inappropriate use of the ʻūlili step by Lokalia Montgomery in “ʻŪlei Pahu i ka Moku.” That hula pahu was one of three that Keahi Luahine had taught to Kawena and Maka (along with “Kalani Manomano” and “Hāmākua Au”), and Keahi had then assigned the keeping of these three hula pahu specifically to the mother and daughter team.  They subsequently taught “ʻŪlei Pahu” to Lokalia who had difficulty learning its complicated foot pattern – the five hela (in five beats) and one kiʻi (in three beats) in each section, and the immediate use of the kiʻi foot to begin the next hela sequence – so she later sped up the mele and gave it the ʻūlili beat and feet that are often thought of today as authentic. 

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ke akua uwalo

Hula Kahiko (Kaʻi) 2018

Māpuana learned “Ke Akua Uwalo i ka Laʻi” from Pat Namaka Bacon in June 1986, as a hula kaʻi for “Poliʻahu,” the Pukui-composed hula pahu that Aunty Maka taught at that same ’86 Kalōpā workshop.  We know that “Ke Akua Uwalo” belongs to the tradition of Keahi Luahine who taught it to Kawena Pukui and Aunty Maka as the kaʻi for both “Kalani Manomano” and “Hāmākua Au” – two of the three hula pahu in the Keahi Luahine tradition. We know, too, that “Ke Akua Uwalo” was used as the kaʻi by Pukui for her debut performance of “Poliʻahu” on December 19, 1985, and that it has become part of the “Poliʻahu” performance tradition as it continues to be practiced today by the kumu hula who were present at Kalōpā: by Māpuana, Vicky Holt Takamine, and Kahaʻi Topolinski.

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ka Lae o alala 

Hula Kahiko 2019

To put it briefly: Kualoa, Mokukapu, and Mokumanu are there on the north. Popoiʻa rests directly offshore. And Mokulua, Kaiʻōlena, Kaʻiwa, and Wailea reach to the south. These are wahi pana on the Koʻolau shoreline that can be named, in sequence, from the vantage point of Ka Lae ʻo Alāla. When named, that is, by one who still knows and clings to these names, by one who is an ʻilima noho papa, an ʻōiwi of Kailua whose family has made the decision, generation after generation, to name them, to know them, and – above all – to stay put. Kapalaiʻula de Silva’s mele is a net of inoa ʻāina that helps to order our world and hold it in place. Alāla, for reasons simple and profound, is the piko of this net. 

Alāla means “awakening,” but in today’s Kailua, it might as well mean “put to sleep.” For nearly a century,  Alāla has languished, its name mostly unspoken, and its stories mostly unremembered. Alāla, when in the mouths of our un-woke settlers – the second-generation “kamaʻāina” crowd who would save Pali Lanes (“the soul of Old Kailua”) at all costs but have no understanding of the Mahulua lands beneath it – is somehow pronounced “Lah-nah-kae Point.”

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