Maui’s Proposed Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art

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Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art will be a center dedicated to the study, practice, celebration and perpetuation of hula and the various ʻŌiwi arts connected to hula.

This project is the first of its kind – the largest proposed investment by any governmental agency to establish a permanent place for hula and associated ʻŌiwi arts. More than 50 people testified during a recent budget committee meeting in support of funding for this project.

I remember hearing a discussion between my daughter, Kumu Hula Nāpua Greig, and then-councilmember Mike Victorino who was running for mayor. He asked her what concerns she had for our county.

She replied that there are football, baseball and soccer fields; basketball, volleyball and tennis courts – even skateboard parks – but not one facility for hula. Hula hālau have to rent spaces or operate out of their garages.

I built a hālau at my home for my daughters, Nāpua Greig and Kahulu Maluo-Pearson. But then our neighbors complained of the excessive traffic on hālau days. Kumu hula do not charge their haumāna enough to pay for rented spaces; yet no county has prioritized investing in hula, which is ultimately an investment in our communities.

The Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art would provide a space dedicated to and designed for hula; a visible and reliable space for education, performance, preservation, and excellence of art and culture in our island home.

Hula is a constitutionally protected tradition and customary practice and is not only integral to the lives of Kānaka Maoli, but to the entire State of Hawaiʻi as well.

Can you imagine a Hawaiʻi without hula?

Hula tells the story of our history, our ʻāina, our home, our ʻohana, our love, and brings both joy and pride to the larger community. Kumu hula, as cultural practitioners, are experts and leaders in our communities. The Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art would support and celebrate these arts and practices.

In addressing the budget committee of the Maui County Council, Nāpua stated “Now I urge you to be the model, the example, the blueprint, the beacon for all Hawaiʻi to follow. I urge you when you approach the matter of funding this center, and others like it in the future, I ask you to not think of equal funding, but instead realize we are playing catch up.”

My daughter Kahulu testified, “My sister and I learned very quickly that a huge challenge every hālau deals with is finding a home – securing a place where your haumāna and kumu hula feel safe. We went through years of moving from one facility to another.”

Uʻilani Tanigawa Lum, an attorney and hula practitioner, spent years dancing for my daughters Nāpua and Kahulu in Upcountry Maui. She said, “My time in hālau was formative, not only as a young woman, but it also served as a catalyst for my passion for justice as well as my work as an attorney. My motivation was simple – I did not understand why it was so hard to practice culture in our island home.

“While I have fond memories of getting splinters from the floors in the old Hāliʻimaile hall, learning about having light feet like Keʻelikōlani when dancing on a creaky floor, or doing duckwalks around school cafeterias, and rolling out the carpet at Aunty Hulu’s garage for practice as a 6-year-old, I think we must do more to support hula in our communities. We must invest in that which makes our home special.”

Hearing from nā kumu that testified, we hope that the Maui County Council agrees that the Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art is indeed an important and justified investment for our community.