Hula for Hokulea

PUHI — Jayna Shaffer, a dancer with Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinaala, will be doing a hula about the Hokulea sailing canoe when she takes the stage as the Miss Aloha Hula representative at this year’s Merrie Monarch hula festival.

To prepare, Shaffer has been working to learn and experience as much as she can about the sailing canoe and its worldwide voyage to care for the environment.

But she wanted to do more — so she created a fundraiser to support the multi-year crusade. The event, held Sunday at the Kilohana Plantation dining room, honored Kauai residents who are part of the Hokulea voyage.

“What else can I do?” Shaffer had asked her kumu hula Leinaala Pavao-Jardin.

“Those were her exact words,” Pavao-Jardin said. “She wanted to be able to give back for all she gained during her studies leading up to her performance. This benefit dinner concert is her giving back, all of the proceeds going to The Polynesian Voyaging Society to help the Hokulea Malama Honua Voyage.”

During the late afternoon event, the Kauai crew members took part in a rarely seen awa ceremony officiated by Kaeo NeSmith with help from Levi Baclayon and Pohaku Kekaualua.

John Kruse, currently working on Kauai’s sailing canoe Namahoe, and Kumu Dennis Chun of the Kauai Community College, were joined by Hauoli Smith, a haumana, or student, with Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinaala, Keala Kai, Kawai Warren, Koral McCarthy and Moku Chandler in the sacred ceremony.

As the oli and hula drew the attention of the more than 150 people attending the sold-out event, James Kimokeo, 91, sat quietly at a prominent table.

“He’s been on four Hokulea voyages,” said Aunty Pua Flores who accompanied Kimokeo. “His house is covered with Hokulea pictures, memories of his trips.”

Kimokeo, a captain through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said he sailed along the Northwest coast. He produced a picture showing himself and the Hokulea in Astoria, Oregon, in 1985.

Pavao-Jardin said Shaffer now has a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and work involved with the crew members and the Hokulea. She will perform her hula honoring the canoe at the international hula festival which unfolds Sunday through April 11 in Hilo.

Started in 2013, the Hokulea Malama Honua, or “To Care for Our Earth” Voyage is expected to last through 2017, covering 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports and 26 countries to highlight diverse cultural and natural treasures, and the importance of working together to protect them.

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