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Kauai’s Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina’ala clinches top honors at Merrie Monarch Festival

The wahine of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina’ala made history this weekend, bringing home to Kauai the coveted Merrie Monarch Lokalia Montgomery Overall Award fo
Published: Apr. 23, 2022 at 3:02 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 24, 2022 at 6:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The wahine of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina’ala made history this weekend, bringing home to Kauai the coveted Merrie Monarch Lokalia Montgomery Overall Award for the first time.

The Kalaheo halau, under the direction of Kumu Hula Leinaʻala Pavao Jardin, scored a combined point total of 1,128.

It was a clean sweep for the group as they won first place in the kahiko division, ʻauana and wahine overall categories.

This year also marked their 10th anniversary of competing at Merrie Monarch. Following their win, Kumu Leinaʻala was in disbelief as she expressed her heartfelt gratitude.

“This is like an out-of-body experience, truly,” she said. “It was all about gratitude this year, it was all about Ke Akua, all about love.”

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Posted by Hawaii News Now on Sunday, April 24, 2022

It was that passion that lifted them to victory as both their kahiko and ʻauana mele were essentially love songs for Kauai.

“For us to do it for Kauaʻi and for Niʻihau it means so much to us. We love Kauaʻi. We love our home. We love Kalaheo. We love just everyone there,” dancer Brylyn Noelani Aiwohi said.

“Weʻre just so thankful. Like kumu said, the word of this journey is definitely gratitude, and we are so proud to be from Kauaʻi.”

In their kahiko number, “Hoʻoheno No Ka Poli Lauaʻe,” they danced to highlight Kukuiolono Park and other well-known features around the Garden Isle from the sands of Nohili to the misty rains throughout.

Watch their kahiko performance below:
Composed by Kumu Hula Wahinekeouli Pa and published in 1917, this mele is a tribute to Kukuiolono Park and other well-known features on Kaua‘i.

In Saturdayʻs ʻauana category, they danced a graceful hula to “Kauaʻi Lana I Ke Kai,” a haku mele by musician Robert Uluwehi Cazimero.

Decked out in purple holoku, the women proclaimed their love for the island as the mele talked about wahi pana, or legendary places. “My love forever returns to Kauaʻi afloat in the sea,” the song said.

“We carried them to Kauaʻi. You could just feel it. And for seven minutes, I was back home. Thatʻs how I felt. I looked at my ladies adorned with lauaʻe, adorned with mokihana and maile, I was right back home on Kauaʻi. And I as a kumu hula, I couldnʻt ask for anything more,” Jardin said.

“When hula, to me, is done correctly and at a high level, you can transcend space and time and touch the hearts and allow others to experience what we get to call home,” she added.

Watch their ʻauana performance below:
Haku mele Robert Uluwehi Cazimero declares his aloha for Kaua‘i in the words “My love forever returns to Kaua‘i afloat in the sea.”

Prior to the kahiko competition Friday, Jardin said she wanted her wahine to take everyone on a trip back home, saying “I want the audience online, in the stadium, wherever, to see Kauaʻi, to feel Kauaʻi, to smell Kauaʻi, to hear Kauaʻi. Thatʻs what we have to do tonight. Weʻre gonna take them home with us.”

Jardin also added that through everything she does for the love of hula, she channels her late kumu, Ray Fonseca and her haumana and supporters over the years.

The win had added meaning for the group as this yearʻs festival was a grand return to a live, in-person event at the Edith Kanakaole Stadium since the pandemic began. Other events were also back, including the parade and the craft fair — gathering places that also serve as an economic engine for Hawaii Island.

Meanwhile, it was also a big night for Maui’s Hālau Kekuaokalā'au’ala’iliahi under the direction of kumu hula Haunani and ‘Iliahi Paredes. The halau won the kane overall award and first place in the kane kahiko and ‘auana categories. Here’s a look at their winning performances:

Kane Kahiko Performance:
From the private collection of Mary Kawena Pukui, this name chant is composed for Prince Jonah Kūhiō, son of Princess Kekaulike, Queen Kapi‘olaniʻs sister.
Kane ‘Auana Performance:
Kumu Paredes wrote this composition for ‘Ele‘io, the messenger of Chief Kaka‘alaneo, whose court was at Keka‘a on West Maui.
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