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Lawmakers support resolution to protect hula amid ‘exploitation’ concerns

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 3:35 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 7:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of the world’s finest hula dancers are gathered in Hilo this week for the 59th annual Merrie Monarch Festival. But hula also took centerstage at the state Capitol on Thursday, where lawmakers are considering a resolution to protect its integrity.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 121 was heard Thursday afternoon by the House Committee on Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs and was approved for a vote in the full Senate.

[WATCH: Merrie Monarch Festival’s Miss Aloha Hula competition]

As hula is celebrated globally, many kumu hula are banding together to protect the centuries-old practice and some want government to do more to preserve its integrity and prevent its exploitation.

They say the resolution addresses growing concerns about “misrepresentation, cultural misappropriation, exploitation, and abuse of hula through those who would teach hula without being acknowledged kumu hula.”

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“The concern is that when we come in to Hawaii and we see spaces that are marketed as being Hawaiian spaces, we need to ask ourselves what makes Hawaii and what makes it Hawaiian,” said Kumu Hula Tatiana Tseu Fox.

Cody Pueo Pata is a kumu hula and is the Hawaiian cultural advisory to Maui’s mayor.

He’s says he’s seen hula shows claiming to be authentic that are anything but.

“If you are not a lineally acknowledged or lineally descended kumu hula who’s been classically graduated or turned out as a kumu hula then you’re not a kumu hula. Therefore whatever you are teaching or perpetuating might not be able to be considered hula itself,” said Pata.

The resolution stems from a gathering of dozens of kumu hula in 2020 who created the “Huamakahikina Declaration on the Integrity, Stewardship, and Protection of Hula.”

So far, Maui and Hawaii counties have adopted the declaration and advocates hope others join the effort at the state and county levels. Almost all who testified supported the resolution except Kawaikapuokalani Hewett and Leimana DaMate.

“There is no distinction between a kumu Hula who was raised in the practice and trained specifically by their family and district,” they wrote.

Kumu Hula Cody Pueo Pata and Mahealani Mika, who was Miss Aloha in 2010, will be live blogging the 59th annual Merrie Monarch Festival. The online chatroom is hosted by HNN and is available here.

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