This is Hula: Maui fest an appetizer to Hilo

By Lynn Cook / Special to the Star-Advertiser on April 2, 2013

Sunday afternoon, on the way back from a spectacular 21st Celebration of the Arts Festival at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Maui, we stood in the check-in line listening to cell phone calls and shout-outs across the lobby of the Hawaiian Airlines interisland ticket counters: “Hey, can you ask your aunty if she has any extra ferns?” or, “We have room for another cooler, we can take ‘em.” And the answer, “Wow! Thanks! Catch you in Hilo!”

The buzz at Celebration of the Arts was that the favorite Maui entertainment, the dancers of Napua Makua’s Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka, weren’t performing for the Celebration Luau. The reason, Maui kumus Napua Makua and Kahulu Maluo were packing for Hilo. At Napua’s first Merrie Monarch she danced for kumu Johnny Lum Ho. This year their young dancers will compete for the coveted title.

The art experiences at the Kapalua event, all offered for free, included hands-on drawing lessons from Waimea artist Kathy Long. You will find her with her prints, cards and originals at the Arts Fair in the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m.

Kathy, daughter of the famous Mary Koski, was chatting with students about returning to Hawaii after earning a degree and living in Finland. She said growing up in Hawaii she had never seen kahiko. In October, 1982 she saw and fell in love with ancient hula.

“Halau O Kekuhi was dancing in the crater of the volcano and I was blown away! They looked like they had been pulled out of the lava floor.” She gives her students chicken skin just hearing about it.

Long work is collected worldwide. In 2001 and 2002 she was invited to do the art for two of the prized Merrie Monarch posters, one male kahiko, the second, wahine kahiko. She stresses that her models are all real dancers.

“Sometimes hula fans will look and say, I know that dancer,” she says, “and usually they are right!” Of course the vintage posters are long since sold out and tend to be high-bid items on the Internet. The good news is that Kathy has reproductions of the hula kahiko art at her booth. And, “scoops” for today: Kathy, with her husband, Bertil, have just opened an elegant art experience at the West Hawaii Four Seasons Resort, The Gallery at Hualalai.