Photo: Hula Dancers
Merrie Monarch 2017, Hālau Hula Olana Kumu Hula - Howard and Olana Ai, Shelsea Ai Apana. - Photo: KWO File

A ke kuahiwi, i ke kualono
Ku ana o Laka i ka mauna
Noho ana o Laka i ke po‘o o ka ohu
O Laka kumu hula…

In the forest, along the ridges
Laka rising in the mountain
Dwelling in the source of the mist
Laka is the source of hula…

This is the beginning of the mele “He Kānaenae no Laka”, a chant of praise for Laka. Laka is widely known as the god of hula, the deity responsible for inspiring the hula practitioner. When I began to learn the chants for the kuahu hula, the hula altar, I began to see a pattern of information that had to do with a healthy forest and water cycle. I was further trained to understand what the kuahu hula is. The first kuahu is the forest itself. The second kuahu is the one that we build and adorn with the forest plants in our hālau hula. The third kuahu is the body of the ‘ōlapa which is adorned with the kuahu plants also known as the kinolau of Laka.

Let’s step back for just one moment and look to the mele again. “Noho ana ‘o Laka i ke po‘o o ka ohu, o Laka kumu hula.” An epiphany! Laka is the process of creating that mist in the forest. Laka is the critical element in the water cycle in our forest called transpiration. It is this process that is significant for hula people to ho‘omana in our pule.

Hula, therefore, in its most primal function, is the continual observance of and protection of the water cycle. Hula practitioners could be considered our traditional hydrologists. – Mehanaokalā Hind

Merrie Monarch Festival Events

April 21-27, 2019

Free Mid-day Entertainment

Daily (Monday through Friday)
Enjoy entertainment at the Grand Naniloa Hotel (12 p.m.) and the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (1 p.m.)


Apr. 21, 9 a.m.
Watch performances by local hālau. Free

Hō‘ike Performances

Apr. 24
Experience an exhibition of hula and folk dance from around the Pacific. Free. No tickets required.

Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair

Apr. 24 – 26, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Apr. 27, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This art fair is an absolute annual favorite full of local artisans, crafters and live entertainment. Free. Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Miss Aloha Hula

Apr. 25, 6 p.m.
Watch individuals compete for the title of Miss Aloha Hula with contestants performing hula kahiko, hula ‘auana and oli.

Group Hula Kahiko

Apr. 26, 6 p.m.
Marvel as the Hālau hula perform anciet styled dances that tells tories of our kupuna and more.

Group Hula ‘Auana & Awards

Apr. 27, 6 p.m.
Hālau hula will preform modern styled dances, followed by an awards presentation for all group winners.

Merrie Monarch Royal Parade

Apr. 27, 10:30 a.m.
Explore one of the festival‘s most entertaining and fun events. For all ages! The parade will begin and end at Pauahi St. (Kilauea Ave. – Keawe St. – Waiānuenue Ave. – Kamehameha Ave.).