Sharing aloha

WAILUA — When Katharina Becker moved to Hawaii from Germany in the early 2000s, she yearned to learn about the Hawaiian culture and its people.

Then she met kumu hula Puna Kalama Dawson in 2004.

Dawson took Becker in and shared the knowledge and culture of Hawaii and the meaning of aloha.

“My life has been touched in so many ways,” Becker said. “I’ve learned so much through being in this halau and dancing hula. It helps me to be a part of this community and in the community of the world.”

Dawson, who is kumu hula of the halau Ka Ipu Ha’a ‘O kekau’ ilani Na Pua Hala ‘O Kau’ai in Anahola, said the sharing of aloha and the sharing of culture with others is what gatherings like the 39th annual Prince Lot Festival this weekend are all about.

“These festivals are all there to recognize people who have invested time and effort to keep the memories alive,” Dawson said. “Having the opportunity, I’m blessed with haumana (students) and family who can appreciate what the kupuna set in motion for us.”

That memory is the history and values of the past displayed through hula, chant and song, Dawson said.

“Every single culture plays that same rhythm,” Dawson said. “They all hold the same values: appreciate yourself, appreciate your family, be a part of your community, be a part of the decision making of the world and respect one another.”

Dawson’s halau is one of 20 that will be on hand at the Prince Lot Hula Festival at Moanalua Gardens on Oahu Saturday and Sunday. The festival is the largest non-competitive hula exhibition in Hawaii and is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating Hawaii’s native culture and natural resources.

Dawson’s halau will include eight students from Kauai; 17 from countries representing Japan, Germany, Canada and Mexico; and several haumana from Oahu.

“I’m really happy to bring the haumana there. Now I’m part of and my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren are all a part of this history and being part of the celebration,” she said.

DeMaine Waipuilani Flores, a musician from Kauai, has been attending the Prince Lot festival since he was a keiki. He said he is blessed to be able to perform music for the halau.

“I’m just totally honored to be participating in this,” Flores said.

Daniela Gamp, one of Dawson’s haumana from Germany, said she wants to honor Dawson by participating in the festival.

“I’m happy that I met her. I’m now more interested in my culture and where I’m from because of her,” Gamp said. “She’s often so far away from her family, so this is what I’m honoring, too. It’s a big gift to share her culture with us.”

As a kumu, Dawson said it is one of her responsibilities to share and embrace her culture while learning about the culture of her haumana.

“For those of us given kuleana (responsibility), it’s important that we create this understanding (of aloha) all over the world,” Dawson said. “The Prince Lot festival brings people together to share the culture so that the memories are not forgotten.”

Named in memory of Prince Lot, who later reigned as King Kamehameha V, the festival was founded in 1977 by MGF and now attracts up to 15,000 residents and visitors each year. Moanalua was a favorite recreation spot for Prince Lot, who helped revive the hula at his gatherings in the district of Moanalua.

Pauline Worsham, Moanalua Gardens Foundation managing director, said Dawson’s halau is unique in the sense of its international flare.

“She is so supportive of perpetuating Hawaiian culture. She also includes haumana from other places — from the mainland and other countries,” Worsham said. “It will be a nice mix of international dancers.”

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