The Regenerative Mana of Hawaii Nei

  • Contributed

    Kumu hula Pi‘ilani Smith

  • Contributed

    Kumu hula Kehaulani Kekua

  • Contributed

    Master kumu hula Alicia Keolahou Keawekane Smith

Pi‘i Ka Lewa Nu‘u is a specially crafted ‘aina-to-table dinner experience from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Waipa.

It is a fundraiser for the Kaipuwai Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the perpetuation of Hawaiian ancestral knowledge, philosophies and practices that are grounded in the primal hula traditions of Kauai.

It is deeply committed to the well-being of Hawaii’s fragile ecosystems and natural resources that are intrinsic to its continued legacies.

“The phrase,’Pi‘i ka lewa nu‘u’ encourages us to reach for higher levels of excellence,” explained kumu hula Kehaulani Kekua, who is president of the Kaipuwai Foundation. “As we chant these words to entice the sun to awaken and climb to the dome of the heavens, we are reminded to aspire for depth and personal growth of emulating Hawaiian values.”

Every aspect of the event is inspired by the mo‘olelo of the goddess Hi‘iakaikapoliopele and her experiences on Kauai. This youngest and favorite sister of the fire and volcano goddess is the healer of the Pele clan. She is attributed as the deity that follows in the Pele, who is responsible for creating new lands.

Hi‘iaka’s role is to bring life to the land and to manifest growth and abundance. She enables for the germination of seeds and spores to bring forth the sprouting ‘ohi‘a lehua and ferns in the cracks of vast lava fields. She not only brings life to the landscape, but inspires health, healing and wellness amongst families and the people.

From welcome protocols and an ‘awa and pupu reception, to a beautifully created Hawaiian dinner menu complete with la‘au (Hawaiian herbal) tea selections, this unique cultural event should not be missed.

Fresh organic, Kauai farm-raised, foraged and harvested ingredients include favorite delicacies of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, including ho‘i‘o, the fiddleheads of a large native fern, kalo or taro, meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, and more.

Hawaiian herbs such as mamaki, ‘olena, aloalo and others will be featured on the menu of the la‘au tea and dessert bar.

A highlight of the evening will feature performance illustrations of storytelling, chants, music and hula artistry of three kumu hula: master kumu hula Alicia Keawekane Smith (Halau NaMaolipua), and her daughter, former Miss Aloha Hula Pi‘ilaniwahine Smith (HalauMalamalama Pi‘opi‘o O Ka La Puka Kakahiaka) have collaborated with Kekua (Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai) to produce this creative work, “Ho‘olulu Ka Lehua.”

Literally describing the scattering of lehua blossoms, the words come from a healing prayer chant uttered by Hi‘iaka while holding vigil over the lifeless body of the Ha‘ena chief, Lohi‘au.

Grief-stricken by the sudden departure of Pele, he had taken his own life when no one had come to retrieve him as the fire goddess had promised. Hi‘iaka’s life journey is a mo‘olelo or record of oral traditions and chants that describe sacred ceremonies and protocols, historic places, sacred rituals and more.

Interestingly enough, it was a movement in the late ‘90s that brought many of the kumu hula and cultural practitioners from across the Hawaiian island chain to stand in solidarity.

“We met as a result of Senate Bill 8, a piece of legislation that was designed to restrict access for native gathering rights on undeveloped lands in Hawaii,” said Kekua. “And it was the threat of a possible reality that we may not be able to go to the forest to gather palapalai, maile and other native greenery that is essential to our cultural practices.”

This experience was life-shifting for Kekua, and her friendship with the iconic mother-and-daughter kumu hula pair has continued to grow for over 20 years since.

“I have deep gratitude for Aunty Alicia and Pi‘ilani. They came to Kauai to support us in vigil and ceremony to protect the Hanalei River and estuary during the boating conflicts of the late ‘90s.”

Their active participation brought them to engage in trail-blazing the Hawaiian political frontier.

It was a matter of ensuring that their indigenous Hawaiian beliefs and traditional practices would survive. Cultural protocol and respectful behavior always set the prescience. It was the “old school” training that came from their respective family traditions of hula.

Kekua reminisced of their first conversations about the Pele and Hi‘iaka stories that came up over preparations while staying at Camp Naue on the North Shore. The following morning they took part in a rally to protect the Hanalei River and estuary during the boating conflicts of the late ‘90s.

Together, they participated in ceremonies up at Ke Ahu A Laka, the hula heiau at Haena and, later, at the river mouth at Hanalei.

Over a 20-year period, they would commit to occasional weekend study retreats to ensue focused discussions, closer study of chants and ceremonial rites, and become more familiar with the mo‘olelo itself.

A pivotal part in the story of Hi‘iaka’s journey is set in Haena, where she is tasked with restoring the life of the chief, Lohi‘auipo. The performance vignettes will expand upon this and other parts of the goddess’ fascinating story.

Tributes to ‘ohi‘a lehua forests, sacred freshwater springs and sources, and migrations of birds that manifest seasons of growth will also honor special guests who have supported the organization’s vision and mission.

There will also be live Hawaiian music, a silent auction, raffle drawings and lei stand.

For visitors, this will be an authentic experience free of commercialized culture. Kama ‘aina, especially the residents of north Kauai, will find a meaningful connection and sense of place in the discovery of the sacred and profound that is layered in Ho‘olulu Ka Lehua.

“The formalities of hula are grounded in the responsibility of ensuring that life cycles continue,” said Kekua. “Health, healing and well-being of the land, people, resources and environment is a fundamental function of the traditional halau.”

The fundraiser will help to create a nexus for cultural programs, scholarships and opportunities that will foster the regeneration of formally trained hula practitioners and teachers well into the future.

The Kaipuwai Foundation works in tandem with Studio Ha‘a, as well as, Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai, to bring cultural programs and learning opportunities to the community.

Wai Lehua sponsorship tables include preferred parking and seating, early entry for an ‘awa and pupu reception, lei greeting and special makana. Individual tickets are also available.

Proceeds raised will benefit the Kaipuwai Foundation’s research, community outreach, cultural programs and scholarships. For further assistance, call 346-7575. Tickets are $80 for this one-time event, available at


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.