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  From The Garden Island, August 21, 2005

Kumu hula leads spiritual gathering in Wailua

By Dennis Fujimoto - The Garden Island

WAILUA - The invasive overgrowth challenged the pahu, but the piercing thump beckoned people through the maze of devastation at the Coco Palms Resort to a special 24-hour vigil.

Kehaulani Kekua, one of the event organizers, chats following the opening ceremonies of the 24-hour vigil.
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With yellow eCaution' tapes strung to help guide people to the site adjacent to the unoccupied resort's chapel, the overgrowth and dilapidation opened to a serene opening as kumu hula Nathan Kalama and Kehaulani Kekua led the special protocol and opening ceremonies, Friday afternoon.

With the overgrowth effectively shielding the unused resort buildings, cultural practitioners, hula dancers, and those interested in Hawaiiana were immersed in the spirit that was enhanced by the chants, hula, and offering of hoeokupu that were placed atop a specially-constructed bamboo platform.

Hula dancers perform during the opening ceremonies of the 24-hour vigil, Friday at the Coco Palms Resort in Wailua. In the background is the platform where ho'okupu were being offered by participants.
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Referring to the time of kupuna, Kekua invited everyone to offer their hoeokupu.

"I feel really bad, I don't have anything," one member of the audience lamented.

"You have your ukulele," the kumu hula replied. "But, it is not of ethe time of kupuna."

"We used to do mele hula when Coco Palms was flourishing," was the reply. "Kupuna will understand."

The vigil was a result of native Hawaiians, cultural practitioners, and advocates seeking balance and respect for Kauaei's land base efforts to create an event of Hawaiian ceremony and prayers.

Working with the owners of the Coco Palms resort, unused since Hurricane eIniki over a decade ago, the vigil will continue until noon, today.

Overgrowth of invasive legumes, decaying palm fronds, and dropped coconuts masked the splendor of the resort, transforming the Hawaiian scene into a desolate, abandoned scene, and the appearance of contemporary popup shelters provided a respite from the evidence of destruction that could be readily seen.

Kalama and Kekua feel they have an obligation and a sense of kuleana, or responsibility, to hoeola i kaeaina, or heal the land of heedlessness and neglect, that obligation driving the pair to the vigil that started at noon on Friday, the weekend when the rest of the state was celebrating Hawaiei's admission to the United States as the 50th state.

Citing examples of iwi kupuna (ancestral remains) being disturbed by construction projects, Kekua is concerned about more iwi kupuna being unearthed when excavation and construction activities begin at Coco Palms.

"The spiritual, cultural, and social landscape of our island is eternally altered and impacted as development activities increase," she said. "But, finding balance doesn't mean that development cannot occur."

Kalama, who said he has had two separate spiritual experiences at his home in Wailua, was driven to testify before the Planning Commission regarding the rebuilding of the Coco Palms Hotel.

"Na Uhane o ka wa kahiko were adamant that someone speak up for them," he said, indicating that ancestors were troubled and concerned that reconstruction plans would bring further transformation to lands that have long been considered sacred.

Kalama expressed his own anxiety of changes and loss due to development on the island. "I knew that we had to do something; take a stand and speak out." Kalama said he did not want future generations to be at a loss because no one stepped forward.

Kekua recognized Kalama's experience as a hoeailona ? a sign from the kupuna kahiko, or ancient ancestors that their pleas were urgent and important.

It was at this point that she told Kalama to consider plans for a spiritual gathering and traditional Hawaiian ceremony that would require a 24-hour focus.

Organizers selected the name, eAha Hoeano for the spiritual gathering. Translated, it means, "Ceremony dedicated to sacred prayer."

The title was also inspired by the poetic name of the ancient Wailua ahupuaea land division, Wailuanuiahoeano which translates to mean "the great sacred Wailua."

Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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