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Given the chance to pay tribute to her hometown, a hula dancer inspires a Hilo mural

Published: May. 12, 2021 at 8:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Born and raised on Hawaii Island, Kristina Waiau’s said that her life is dominated by two driving forces: hula and Hilo.

In front of the camera and on stage, Waiau can be seen dancing hula with Halau O Ka Ua Kanilehua under kumu Johnny Lum Ho.

Waiau said that she is usually a 4th or 5th row dancer, so when she got the call to pose for a new mural in the middle of her hometown — she was shocked and immediately overcome with humility.

“You know there’s so many great hula dancers out there, and I felt so underserving of it,” she said.

But, Waiau couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

With the blessing of her kumu, she said, “As a mother who named my son, Hilo, I said you know, I’m gonna do it.”

Once they got the green light, the project was on.

Artists, Dante Orpilla and Keoni Payton, spent their own money on supplies and turned a rundown wall on Keawe Street into a splash of green.

“So this mural isn’t so much a gift to the city and downtown as much as it is a pay of tribute to the greens of this beautiful town, to this craft that has kept the culture alive all these years, to Merrie Monarch itself,” Orpilla said.

Longing for that Merrie Monarch energy, Waiau, who’s halau won big in 2016, said she is dedicating the mural to her kumu and to photographer Kim Taylor Reece, who has been turning her hula into art for years.

“I feel really lucky to have been able to work with her,” said Reece. “It’s kind of special, very nice.”

With blessings all around, Waiau said what she has learned through this experience is not just giving aloha, but also accepting it.

“We find all these excuses to not just say thank you,” she said. “Mahalo for this opportunity, mahalo for this friendships and mahalo for the beautiful laughter that I will always have in my heart.”

“It just really makes me proud. It makes me proud to be from the 96720,” Waiau said.

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