Emalani Festival at Koke‘e to offer journey of chant, hula and history

Each year, the coordinators at Hui o Laka-Koke‘e Natural History Museum, are challenged to create the setting for their Eo e Emalani i Alaka‘i Festival. Held in the lush beauty of Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in the breathtaking uplands of West Kaua‘i at Koke‘e, the Festival has become more than an re-enactment of a historic event. It has become a regular touchstone for residents and visiting kumu hula and their haumana or students, a pilgrimage for those who esteem Queen Emma Naea Rooke and an annual journey of the heart to the beautiful mountains of the region for many. In a way, all who attend, follow in the footsteps of Queen Emma when she determined that she and her courtiers and friends would journey to the uplands on horseback and on foot in January of 1871. Before the invention of down sleeping bags and sophisticated camping gear, the intrepid party of over one hundred people made the journey in one of the coldest times of the year, scrambling over muddy bogs and tough terrain to stand and gaze down at Hanalei and Wainiha from the place called “Kilohana” – or look-out point.

Set for Saturday October 11, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., this year’s Emalani Festival, as it is lovingly known, will resound with appreciation, celebration, oli, mele song and hula as the Queen, Kauai’s Wailana Kaohi Mata, brings her own special feelings for Emma to her representation and portrayal of the monarch whose only equal during that era was considered to be Queen Victoria. When she and her guide Renfred Hookano (portraying Queen Emma’s stalwart guide, Kaluahi) first appear at the top of the meadow on horseback, the Festival will come alive with a special excitement. Welcoming her will be fifteen hula halau, contemporary Hawaiian musicians, scholars, historians, school children, visitors and lovers of things Hawaiian from across the State of Hawaii. As one kupuna or Hawaiian elder said two years ago, “It’s not a reenactment, it’s not a pageant, it something else and it’s something we all make together that makes it so real.”

The event has been spiritually guided over the years by kumu hula and Hui o Laka Trustee Roselle Bailey who bestowed the Festival’s name of “Eo e Emalani i Alaka‘i” and who has always felt that the journey to Kokee would have been a chance for Queen Emma to enjoy a spirit of adventure and informality in the mountains. Many feel that it was there she could feel close to her deceased husband (Kamehameha IV) and young son, whom she had tragically lost. Perhaps there, in the bracing mountain air and incomparable scenery of that region, she could refresh and restore her spirit. Queen Emma was a woman who walked her talk and took care to create tremendous value with every minute of her life. She did not journey to the region for any idle reason, she would not heed the pleadings and warnings of advisors not to go as dangerous as it was. But she would not be kept from going and she brought her court chanters and dancers of hula with her to mark the way in appreciation and joy for the wondrous scenes of beauty they encountered along the way.

So it is her adventurous and determined spirit and remarkable leadership qualities that are evoked in the Festival. A spirit of informality, respect, beauty, Hawaiian music, crafts and the compelling and enduring nature of the Queen set the tone, as many who gather have not seen one another for a year. Some are returning once again after attending and supporting the Festival since its inception.

So the mountains are set to ring with beautiful song and celebration this year featuring some of Kaua‘i’s musical artists, falsetto singer Nick Castillo, David Kauai and Friends, and Manulele Clarke. There will be exciting new Festival tee-shirts designed by Michelle Dick and a Commemorative Programme for sale, Hawaiian craft demonstrations and sales, exhibits and the Museum shop will be open.

The 15th Annual Emalani Festival will begin at 10 am and is free of charge. As parking is limited at Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow, assistance will be available for parking. Car pooling is recommended. As days can be varied on the mountain, wear layered clothing, bring a lawn chair and perhaps an umbrella. For more information, call Kokee Natural History Museum at 335-9975.

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