ʻImiloa to host cultural enrichment programs to celebrate Merrie Monarch Festival

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center will host a musical performance by UH Hilo’s own Kainani Kahaunaele, and pūpū jewelry and lei making workshops, April 20-22.

Ferns, shells and Kainani Kahaunaele pictured.
Cultural events at ‘Imiloa celebrating the Merrie Monarch Festival April 20-22 will feature a musical performance by Kainani Kahaunaele and workshops on making pūpū (shell) jewelry and traditional lei. (Courtesy photos)

By Susan Enright.

Kaiu Kimura pictured
Ka‘iu Kimura

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, an educational outreach center located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus, has announced it will host several cultural enrichment events to be held April 20, 21, and 22 in celebration of the 2022 Merrie Monarch Festival.

“We’re thrilled to be able to host another year of Merrie Monarch programs at our center for the Hawai‘i community, and for those who are visiting Hilo for this internationally acclaimed festival,” says Ka‘iu Kimura, executive director at ʻImiloa.

“We’re especially thankful to our presenters this year for supporting our goal to safely offer educational and culturally enriching experiences for our guests,” she adds.

Musical performance by Kainani Kahaunaele

A musical performance with Nā Hōkū Hanohano award-winning artist Kainani Kahaunaele will take place on Thursday, April 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at ‘Imiloa’s planetarium. The audience will enjoy music and listen in on some “behind the scenes” stories from her newest album, Waipunalei, which received seven awards in six different categories at the 44th annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards including Album of the year, Song of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Hawaiian MusicAlbum of the Year, and Hawaiian Language Performance.

Learn more about Kahaunaele, who is an alumna of UH Hilo and now teaches at the university’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language:

Niʻihau shell jewelry workshops

Pūpū jewelry workshops will be held on Wednesday, April 20, at 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Make Ni‘ihau shell jewelry with master shell artisan, Kaleialoha Roback, who has been practicing the art of lei pūpū for decades, carrying on a familial tradition of her Ni‘ihau heritage. As a well-known Ni‘ihau shell jeweler, she has sold and repaired hundreds of pieces across Hawaiʻi and will be at ʻImiloa to host two special Ni‘ihau shell workshops. Participants will learn and make their own one-inch pūpū (momi) earrings. All necessary materials will be provided with instruction on site.

Lei workshops

Lei workshops will be held on Thursday, April 21, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Friday, April 22, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Learn the art of lei making with Hawaiian artist Lehua Hauani‘o, a well-known cultural specialist who has been sharing her familial artistry and expertise in indigenous foliage and lei techniques with the Hawaiʻi community for over a decade. Learn best practices for gathering and preparing foliage and make your own lei to take home or to gift to a special someone this Merrie Monarch week. Participants will be provided with all necessary lei materials freshly gathered from ‘Imiloa gardens. Participants can choose the length of their lei while at the workshop (either kūpe‘e (wristband/anklet) or lei po‘o (head).

COVID-19 safety measures

Following COVID-19 safety protocols, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is open to the public with
limited hours and capacity restrictions.

In keeping with the current state, county, and UH Hilo COVID-19 health and safety protocols, ‘Imiloa will not be requiring verification of COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results for
visitors to ‘Imiloa. Face masks continue to be required by all visitors (ages 2+) while at the center.


Registration for this year’s Merrie Monarch cultural enrichment program is available now with limited seating. See info about ticket pricing and a full list of the events.

Due to the popular demand for cultural programming, visitors are strongly encouraged to reserve their admission via online reservation prior to visiting ‘Imiloa. Walk-ups will be accommodated based on first-come, first-served availability.

About ‘Imiloa

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s mission is to share Hawai‘i’s legacy of exploration in many fields through a wide range of exhibits, community outreach, programs, and other forms of informal science education. The center, located on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is distinctive in it’s architectural structure of conical-shaped buildings housing a welcoming lobby, exhibit hall, full-dome planetarium, café (currently closed during pandemic), and gift shop. The center is surrounded by nine acres of native gardens.

‘Imiloa is located at the UH Hilo University Park of Science and Technology, 600 ‘Imiloa Place, off Komohana and Nowelo streets.

Gardens at Imiloa pictured with conical buildings in background.

By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.