‘Imiloa Astronomy Center to hold cultural enrichment programs during Merrie Monarch, April 4-6

The events are 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

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In celebration of the 55th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center will host three days of cultural enrichment events, Wednesday, April 4 through Friday, April 6, 2018. The events are 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,” says Ka‘iu Kimura, executive director of the center. “From beautiful stories delivered through the art of hula and chant to talking story with the inspiring crewmembers of Hōkūle‘a’s inaugural voyage in 1976 to Tahiti, we look forward to welcoming everyone.

April 4
Kumu Puanani Alama
Kumu Puanani Alama

Kumu Puanani Alama, the gracious matriarch of the hula world, will be showcased. Kumu Alama began her life in hula at a young age and at 87-years-old, she has surpassed seven decades of teaching, a record previously held by her sister, Leilani Alama (1925-2014). Join the Hula Preservation Society for this special time with the last living judge from the very first Merrie Monarch Festival competition.

At 1:00 p.m., there will be a hula and mele by Hālau Hula I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo from Ke Kula o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Hawaiian immersion school. They will share the mele (song) lyrics ‘Ua Malu Kou Aupuni e ka Lani, ʻAʻohe Kupuʻeu, Nāna e ʻAʻe’ that honor Luka Keʻelikōlani, the great granddaughter of Kamehameha I, who was a steadfast advocate of the Hawaiian language and who served as governor of Hawaiʻi Island for nearly twenty years in the 19th century. It is through hula, research and learning mele from mentors that the students of Hālau I Ka Leo Ola O Nā Mamo connect with their moʻolelo (story) to ensure these messages live on into perpetuity.

April 5

Hula Preservation Society brings together dancers from New York City’s famed Hawaiian Room to share their stories at 10:00 a.m. From 1937-1966, 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 over the room’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.

Hokule‘a arrival in Honolulu from Tahiti in 1976. Photo by Phil Uhl.

At 1:00 p.m., talk story with members of the Hōkūle‘a crew. 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, Hōkūleʻa, on its inaugural round trip voyage to Tahiti. The panel will be moderated by Captain Gordon Piʻianaiʻa, the captain of the leg from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi and its successful and triumphant return to Hawaiʻi. 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 first hand experiences of those who lived this part of Hawai‘i’s history.

April 6

At 10:00 a.m., a panel sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) will discuss the traditions and innovations of hula, as well as share on the globalization and change that hula has experienced throughout the years both in Hawaiʻi and throughout the world. Co-sponsors are the Lālākea Foundation and Ka ʻAha Hula o Hālauaola.

(l-r) Kīhei Nahale‘a, Sean Nāleimaile, and Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing.

At 1:00 p.m.,‘Imiloa’s Merrie Monarch programming culminates with a lively musical performance by Ho‘ā and the keiki of Project Kuleana. Hoʻā is comprised of Hilo’s own Kīhei Nahale‘a, Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing and Sean Nāleimaile. Ho‘ā’s passion is to “ignite” the desire and action to perpetuate and care for welo kupun”—lineal heritage as Hawaiian people, and in particular, Hawaiian music and all of its elements. Featured with Ho‘ā will be keiki from Project Kuleana. Project Kuleana was created by the three men of Hoʻā. Project Kuleana aspires to increase the innate value of Hawaiian music and inspire people to reflect on one’s own kuleana through the performance. Project Kuleana seeks to encourage people to rediscover, reconnect and reinstill what Hawaiian music and performers of Hawaiian music represent.


Pre-sale tickets for each Cultural Enrichment Program at ‘Imiloa are $10 ($8 for ‘Imiloa members.) Pre-sale tickets can be purchased at ‘Imiloa’s front desk, or over the phone by calling 808-932-8901. A limited supply of tickets will be available for purchase on the day of each event for $15.

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 must be presented.

About ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center exterior and gardens.
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is an outreach center located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. The center features an exhibit hall showcasing astronomy and Hawaiian culture, a planetarium, nine acres of native gardens, and a café. ‘Imiloa is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place, Hilo, off Komohana Street and Nowelo Street at the UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology.