The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo celebrated 2023 Spring Commencement on May 13 at Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium. The ceremony also was livestreamed (recorded for viewing). Almost 700 students petitioned for degrees and/or certificates and for various post-graduate credentials, including the university’s first graduates of the aeronautical sciences program.
Candidates represented the College of Arts and Sciences; Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikolani College of Hawaiian Language; College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management; College of Natural and Health Sciences; College of Business and Economics; and Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.
The university posthumously awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to legendary kumu hula and composer Edith Kekuhikuhipu‘uoneonāali‘iōkohala Kenao Kanaka‘ole (1913-1979) in recognition of her contributions toward the preservation and revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture. Last weekend, the campus and local community celebrated Kanaka‘ole’s life with a large public event.
Keynote speaker at commencement was Justina Taft Mattos, associate professor of drama at UH Hilo. Sean Kauāakeakua “Kauā” Segundo, an undergraduate receiving his second bachelor’s degree, with a double major in Hawaiian language and linguistics, was student speaker. His remarks were given in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) with an English summary in the commencement program.
Special guests included UH Regent Alapaki Nahale-a and UH System Vice President for Academic Strategy Debora Halbert.
The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo co-hosted a day of celebration May 6 to honor the life and legacy of legendary educator and cultural icon Edith Kanaka‘ole.
Aunty Edith worked as a teacher at Hawai‘i Community College from 1971 to 1974 and at UH Hilo from 1974 to 1979. At both schools, she created courses and seminars on subjects including Hawaiian language, ethnobotany, Polynesian history, genealogy and Hawaiian chant and mythology, laying the foundation for Hawaiian studies programs in higher education that continue to grow and expand to this day.
Saturday’s “He Ka‘ao No Aunty Edith Kanaka‘ole” events started at the campus Performing Arts Center with a kīpaepae (welcoming ceremony) and hoʻokupu (ceremonial presentation of gifts and tributes) and was livestreamed on YouTube. The event was co-hosted by Hawai‘i Community College, the United States Mint, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The celebration then continued with the unveiling of a mural of Aunty Edith at Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall, along with hula and other activities.
The ceremonies held at the Performing Arts Center tied into the release of a U.S. coin honoring Kanaka‘ole. On March 27, the United States Mint released into circulation a coin from the American Women Quarters™ series honoring the cultural icon. She is one of five American women being honored in new quarters in 2023 as part of the American Women Quarters™ Program. Each year, the U.S. secretary of the treasury selects the honorees following consultation with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus.
At the opening event, Chancellor Irwin delivered remarks about the mural of Edith Kanakaole created on campus this week by local artist Kamea Hadar in collaboration with Kūha‘o Zane who is Edith Kanaka‘ole’s grandson and creative director at Sig Zane Designs, a local textile and clothing business in Hilo renowned for a signature aesthetic rooted in Native Hawaiian culture. The mural was created with the support of UH Hilo Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Services.
“As a faculty member of both Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Aunty Edith openly shared her deep ancestral knowledge passed down to her through her familia hula lineage,” says Irwin. “Her early contributions to the university’s Hawaiian language program and numerous community initiatives have set a foundation that continues to be built on today. It is an immense honor to share her story through this mural and have her portrait serve as a prominent feature on campus.”
Located at Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall, which was built in 1982 and named after the beloved kumu hula, the mural was unveiled at ceremonies shortly after the event at the performing arts center. The 1,000 or so attendees then enjoyed hula performances and other cultural activities.
The mural project at Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall will continue over the next few months in different areas of the building but as one contiguous mural with thematic design elements created by Kūha‘o Zane, who collaborated on his grandmother’s portrait.
“UH Hilo students will be an integral part of the process by contributing to the mural throughout the summer,” says Chancellor Irwin.
As a faculty member at both the Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Aunty Edith openly shared her deep ancestral knowledge passed down to her through her familial hula lineage. Her early contributions to the university’s Hawaiian language program and numerous community initiatives have set a foundation that continues to be built on today. It is an immense honor to share her story through this mural and have her portrait serve as a prominent feature on our campus.
Kamea Hadar is a talented and experienced muralist honored by this opportunity. He has taken art courses at the Honolulu Art Academy and University of Hawai‘i and spent periods living, studying, and creating in Paris, Madrid, and Tel Aviv. Currently residing in Honolulu, he is the Co-Lead Director of POW! WOW! Worldwide and his large-scale murals for businesses, organizations, and schools have been featured on buildings both in Hawai‘i as well as globally. Hadar was commissioned by the University of Hawai‘i to enhance several campus facilities, including the Stan Sheriff Center and the College of Education at UH Mānoa. Most recently, Hadar honored Native Hawaiian Olympic medalists Duke Kahanamoku and Carissa Moore with a large-scale mural in downtown Honolulu and completed another for the Polynesian Voyaging Society as a tribute to master navigator Papa Mau Piailug of Satawal.
Kūha‘o Zane, Edith Kanaka‘ole’s grandson, and Creative Director of Sig Zane Designs, will be collaborating with Hadar on the design of this mural. Weaving his father’s hand-cut art as well as the cultural narratives that drive their mission of education through design, this large expression of creativity is a celebration of his Grandmother’s achievements, impact and influence. Through the twenty years that Kūhaʻo has worked at Sig Zane Designs, he established a design studio SZKaiao which has done work for Tiffany’s & Co., Louis Vuitton, Nike and a multitude of local entities. Although each of these projects varied in brand identity and uniform design all, including mural projects like this one, are embedded in the cultural foundation passed to him generationally.
This is the third mural at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo that Kīpuka NHSC has supported. The first two were completed in 2015 on the UH Hilo residence halls and celebrate the physical features of Hilo and the mo‘olelo that accompany them. Murals such as these reflect the values of the community and help UH Hilo students to further develop connections to Hilo. UH Hilo students will continue to be an integral part of the mural process by contributing to a continuation of the mural throughout the summer.
Bonnie D. Irwin
Invitation to E Hō Mai Ka ʻIke
The Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation,
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo,
Hawai‘i Community College,
United States Mint,
the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum,
and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Based on Native Hawaiian cultural values, the program’s Ka Lama Ku Awards recognize contributions students have made in their formal and informal leadership roles on campus and acknowledge those individuals who show strong evidence of future leadership potential.
“It was such a delight to see the energy and creativity honored in our student leaders,” says UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, who attended the event. “In addition to gaining valuable experience in leading these initiatives for the campus, it was clear that the students had also become good friends through working collaboratively on shared goals.”
The following students and groups are the 2023 Ka Lama Ku Award recipients.
Alaka‘i Award: Leadership – Haley Williams
Kuleana Award: Accountable and Responsible – Carley Atkins
Mālama Award: Taking Care of Others and Community – Lillian Lewis
‘Ike Pāpālua Award: To Have the Gift of Vision – Mekaila Pasco
Laulima Award: No Task is Too Big When Done By All – Russell-Jearuss Ronolo
Alaka‘i Group Award: Leadership – First Year Experience
‘Ike Pāpālua Group Award: To Have the Gift of Vision – Ka Pouhana Mentoring Program
Laulima Group Award: No Task is Too Big When Done By All – Psi Chi Psychology Honors Society Club
This month there is a celebration planned to honor Kumu Hula Edith Kanaka‘ole. Save the date, Saturday, May 6, 2023, 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. at the Performing Arts Center, and then 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall, on the campus of University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, when the community will come together to celebrate Aunty Edith’s life and legacy.
It is a local event with co-hosts being the Kanaka‘ole ‘ohana, the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation, UH Hilo, and Hawai‘i Community College, but it also is sparked and supported through the national recognition of Aunty Edith by the United States Mint, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
Edith Kanaka‘ole (1913–1979) was a renowned Native Hawaiian composer and educator, teaching at both Hawai‘i Community College (1971-74) and UH Hilo (1974-79). She created curriculum and public lectures on Hawaiian language, ethnobotany, Polynesian history, genealogy, and Hawaiian chant and mythology that without a doubt helped lay the foundation for the coming decades of Hawaiian language and culture revitalization within higher education in Hawai‘i.
To honor Aunty Edith’s groundbreaking contributions to the UH Hilo campus and community, the humanities building at UH Hilo, which houses subjects such as languages, English, philosophy, and kinesiology, is named in her honor, Edith Kanaka‘ole Hall. For a long time, most people referred to the building as “EKH,” a habit that many in our university community are trying to break, replacing with the respectful Kanaka‘ole Hall or even the simple Kanaka‘ole, rather than reducing a kumu’s honor to an acronym.
This attention to learning and practicing respect toward not only kumu among us today but also toward those who came before—those who blazed a clear path toward Hawaiian language and culture revitalization within the too often stodgy and stubborn world of academia—is part of who we are at UH Hilo. We are a Native Hawaiian grounded institution working every day to revitalize the language and the culture, weaving Native Hawaiian protocols, wisdom, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, and cultural awareness into all life on campus.
It was an honor to be included in the Merrie Monarch parade, walking alongside students, educators, and cultural practitioners from UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, our laboratory public charter school Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Iki, and the non-profit Aha Pūnana Leo. Experiences like that, of being immersed in a sea of dedicated and unwavering scholars and educators whose work on Hawaiian language and cultural revitalization is an inspiration to dying cultures around the world, is humbling to the core. An experience like that fills me with the energy to focus on the work ahead, doing everything I can to help keep UH Hilo blazing up that path toward the future Aunty Edith envisioned for Native Hawaiians.
In March, a commemorative quarter honoring Edith Kanaka‘ole was released into circulation by the United States Mint, one of five American women to be minted on new quarters as part of the 2023 honorees for the American Women Quarters™ Program. In addition, last month, Aunty Edith was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the UH Board of Regents in recognition of her contributions toward the preservation and revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture.
I invite you to come celebrate these milestones of Aunty Edith’s honorable and inspirational legacy at the May 6 events.