‘Imiloa celebrating Merrie Monarch: Center hosting series of cultural enrichment programs

  • Talk story on April 4 with venerable kumu hula Puanani Alama at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

    Courtesy photo

In celebration of the 55th annual Merrie Monarch Festival, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is hosting three days of hula, Hawaiian music and cultural workshops April 4-6 at the center in Hilo.

The series is organized annually at ‘Imiloa to complement and honor Merrie Monarch’s major purpose: the perpetuation, preservation and promotion of the art of hula and Hawaiian culture through education.


“We are thrilled to offer our community and visitors an opportunity to join us at ‘Imiloa and enjoy these culturally rich experiences,” said Ka‘iu Kimura, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center executive director. “From beautiful stories delivered through the art of hula and chant to talking story with the inspiring crew members of Hokule‘a’s inaugural voyage in 1976 to Tahiti, we look forward to welcoming everyone!”

The opening day of events at ‘Imiloa on April 4 showcases kumu hula Puanani Alama, the gracious matriarch of the hula world. Alama began her life in hula at a young age and has never looked back. At 87 years old, she has taught for more than seven decades. Join the Hula Preservation Society for this special time with the last living judge from the very first Merrie Monarch Festival competition.

‘Imiloa’s Merrie Monarch programming culminates at 1 p.m. April 6 with a lively musical performance by Ho‘a and the keiki of Project Kuleana.

Presale tickets for each cultural enrichment program are $10 or $8 for ‘Imiloa members and can be purchased at ‘Imiloa’s front desk or by calling 932-8901. A limited supply of tickets will be available for purchase for $15 on the day of each event.

As an added bonus, those with paid admissions to the Merrie Monarch cultural enrichment presentations will have the opportunity watch a planetarium show or enjoy the various interactive displays in the exhibition hall on the same day at the special price of only $5 per person. Proof of paid admission needs to be presented.

‘Imiloa is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, visit ImiloaHawaii.org.

Program schedule

April 4

• 10 a.m.: Talk story and workshop with kumu hula Puanani Alama. Presented by the Hula Preservation Society.

• 1 p.m.: Hula and mele by Halau Hula I Ka Leo Ola O Na Mamo of Ke Kula o Nawahiokalani‘opu‘u. Students will share mele lyrics honoring Luka Keʻelikolani, the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, who was a steadfast advocate of the Hawaiian language and who served as governor of Hawaii Island for nearly 20 years in the 19th century. It is through hula, research and learning mele (songs) from mentors that the students of Halau I Ka Leo Ola O Na Mamo have been able to connect with their moʻolelo (story) to ensure these messages live on into perpetuity.

April 5

• 10 a.m.: The Hula Preservation Society brings together dancers from New York City’s famed Hawaiian Room to share their stories. From 1937-66, hula and Hawaiian music were celebrated in New York City through this pioneering venue, the Hawaiian Room. Young Hawaiian talents brought their youthful spirits, energies and aloha to millions during the venue’s 30 years. Come meet these (now) elders who are still going strong in sharing their love of hula. Archival photos and clips from the documentary film “The Hawaiian Room” will be shared.

• 1 p.m.: Enjoy an afternoon meeting and talking story with crew members of the Hokule‘a. This special panel presentation will feature participants who took part as crew and vital supporters of the 1976 voyage of the iconic Hawaiian double-hulled canoe on its inaugural round-trip voyage to Tahiti. The panel will be moderated by Gordon Piʻianaiʻa, the captain of the leg from Tahiti to Hawaii and its successful and triumphant return to Hawaii.

Crew members will recall the challenges of organizing and launching this daunting project and the return of the modern era of deep-sea voyaging and the rebirth of traditional oceanic wayfinding. It is a story that will be retold live through the firsthand experiences of those who lived this part of Hawaii’s history.

April 6


• 10 a.m.: The Office of Hawaiian Affairs sponsors a forum titled “Hula: Tradition, Innovation, Globalization and Change.” The Lalakea Foundation and Ka ʻAha Hula o Halauaola will moderate the discussion around these topics.

• 1 p.m. Musical performance by Ho‘a and the keiki of Project Kuleana. Hoʻa is comprised of Hilo’s own Kihei Nahale’a, Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing and Sean Naleimaile. Hoʻa’s passion is to “ignite” the desire and action to perpetuate and care for “welo kupuna” (linneal heritage as Hawaiian people), and in particular, Hawaiian music and all of its elements. Project Kuleana, created by the three men of Hoʻa, aspires to increase the innate value of Hawaiian music and inspire people to reflect on one’s own kuleana through the performance.

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