A kīpaepae kā‘iewe ceremony was held last week to reaffirm the well being of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus after the unexpected loss of five members of the university ‘ohana over the summer. UH Hilo mourns the loss of Richard Crowe , professor of astronomy (d. May 27); David Miller, professor of English (d. June 27); Don Aanavi, retired art professor and campus minister (d. July 22) ; Sabry Shehata, professor of agricultural economics (d. July 21); and Jay Slivkoff, observatory technician in the astronomy and physics department (d. Aug 5).
Those gathered at the kīpaepae on Aug. 14—about 50 faculty, staff, and students from UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College—were moved by the simple yet profound message of the ceremony, described by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney as “a moment to slow down the clock to honor life and living.”
Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, executive assistant to the chancellor, explains the translation of kīpaepae kā‘iewe.
“A kīpaepae is a traditional threshold stone to transitions one from the outer world of knowing into the inner world of remembering, used here to denote ceremony,” she says. “Kāʻiewe means to make familial connections.”
The ceremony, held outside Chancellor Straney’s office, was officiated by Taupōuri Tangarō, Hawai‘i CC assistant professor and department chair of the Hawai‘i Lifestyles program. The garden area fronting the administration building was dedicated as the malae, or ceremonial grounds, where ti leaf stalks were planted in memory of the lost colleagues.
Following Native Hawaiian protocol, each of the elements used in the kīpaepae kā‘iewe ceremony held significant symbolism about loss and reaffirmation of life. Many of those who gathered participated in drumming and the blowing of conch shells.
“The pahu (drum) is sounded to remind us that we all originate from within the womb, close to the heartbeat of our mothers,” says Tangarō. “The pū (shell trumpet) is trumpeted to remind us that the ocean does not disconnect, but connects us all.”
Ceremonial salt and water were scattered by Tangarō. The solemn group was enveloped in his ‘oli (chant).
“The pa‘akai (salt) is presented to encourage the preservation of humanity; the presentation of water is to remind us of the cyclic nature of all life,” he says. “And finally, the chant, a very ancient one from the volcanic myth traditions of Hawai‘i island, will reverberate the timeless and universal message to live well, to live full, and most of all, to create a legacy of having lived in the center of your potential.”
The gathering was a collaborative event facilitated by Hawai‘i Community College and UH Hilo.
Organizers included Hawai‘i CC’s Kīpaepae Hawaiian Protocols Committee, an official college committee under the aegis of Hawai‘i CC’s Chancellor Noreen Yamane and chaired by Tangarō.
The gathering also was facilitated by UH Hilo’s Uluākea ‘ohana. Supported by the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, Uluākea is a cohort of UH Hilo administrators, faculty, staff, and learners active in the amplification of Hawai‘i Life Ways within their respective areas.