MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A UH Manoa Hawaiian studies student turned heads during the winter graduation ceremony, and for all the right reasons.
Kala Ka'awa, along with several other students, wore a traditional Hawaiian malo during the oli that opened the graduation ceremony ten days ago at the Stan Sheriff center.
"Culture is a big thing in my family, and I just wanted to bring that out to the public so other people or families can show their roots and be proud with their culture too," Ka'awa said.
Ka'awa did put his graduation gown back on while he sat amongst his classmates. But right before his name was about to be called, Ka'awa slipped out of his cap and gown once again.
In Hawaiian culture, the malo, or loincloth, was a basic garment for Hawaiian men, both for royalty and commoners. Traditionally, nudity isn't always considered sexual.
Ka'awa admitted he was nervous he wouldn't be able to receive his diploma or might get in trouble for wearing the malo, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Ka'awa said the response was so positive from the audience, even strangers gave him lei after the ceremony.
"When I raised my arm, I didn't expect the whole auditorium to go crazy, but I received a standing ovation," Ka'awa said.
Ka'awa will now move on to graduate school to receive his Master's degree in Hawaiian studies.