Legendary kumu hula George Naope dies at 81 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Legendary kumu hula George Naope dies at 81

George Naope George Naope
Paulie Jennings Paulie Jennings
Iwalani Walsh-Tseu Iwalani Walsh-Tseu

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HILO, Hawaii (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - George Naope, considered living legend because of his contribution to hula, has died at the age of 81.

Naope traveled the world performing, sharing Hawaiian culture, and organizing hula festivals.

In 1963 Naope co-founded of Merrie Monarch Festival as a way to honor King David Kalakaua, promote Hawaiian culture, and drum up business for Hilo.

"Hula was his life and as a younger person one of the things that he felt was necessary was to make sure that people recognize the value of it, the fact that it is the identity of our Hawaiian culture," said Paulie Jennings, a life long friend.

"He was the instigator. He started the whole world in coming to know a little bit about hula," Jennings added.

Iwalani Walsh-Tseu, who runs the Iwalani School of Dance in Mililani, considers Naope the king of hula.

"Without Uncle George," Walsh-Tseu said, "hula would not be as popular as it is around the world. I'm not talking only Hawaii, I'm talking around the world. If you are going to talk hula and you are going to say one name (is should be) George Naope."

Naope passed away peacefully at his home in Hilo early Monday morning. His family and friends say it is too early to announce plans for a memorial.

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