How it all began:
The tenth Ho'okupu Cultural Festival will be filled with embracing ALOHA.
My Kumu Hula and Master Hula (Lo'ea) Uncle George Na'ope gave me the opportunity to perform in Japan with Kumu Hula Aunty Bella Richards, with a small group of hula dancers in 1973. At that time there was hardly any presence of hula or any hula schools throughout Japan. This life-changing experience led me back to Japan again and again over the years.
Spending quality time with Uncle through the years, we would sit and he would share his mo'olelo (stories) of his past and experiences throughout his life, it was one of his teaching tools to respect and apply (to do). Uncle was the co-founder of Merry Monarch and many other festivals that he originated here in Hawaii, Canada, Washington, Japan, Europe, California, and throughout the world. Everywhere he placed his footprint and visited throughout his life he planted a seed, it grew wherever he traveled. He also planted a seed in me to carry on his legacy to perpetuate the hula and its history which is what I am trying my best to do.
Besides my father, Uncle George helped to shape and mold me into the individual that I am today. He instilled certain life skills and values, which led me to the path of this festival.
In 2009 while living on the island of Lana'i, I made a phone call to Uncle to share my mana'o i'o (to believe) and that I have the 'ike (vision) which became the genesis for this festival. In October 2009 he attended the first festival accompanied by his 'ohana; he was filled with happiness and did'nt show his pain while struggling with his terminal illness. It was his first visit to Lana'i island, his first ferry boat ride across the 'au'au channel, and his last festivities in the living world.
The festival was a tribute to Uncle George in recognition of all the contributions he had made to the art form of the hula and all that it represents. The spectrum of his influence went far beyond Hawai'i nei.
We relocated to Pahala, Ka'u in 2014 and began to continue this festival Ho'okupu Hula No Ka'u Cultural Festival. This event will be it's 6th year in Ka'u. The purpose and one of the main goals of this event is to keep the living traditions alive and well, that included the whole ahupua'a living systems.
This free event expresses sharing, kindness, sincerity, and giving to people.
In closing, It is painful to realize that Uncle George will no longer be with us in support of his legacy of the hula therefore, my heart reaches out in thanksgiving and aloha as I attempt to carry the torch that he lit in me so long ago. But, We rejoice knowing that celebration like this will keep Uncle's spirit alive, to “preserve hula and all things HAWAI'I.
Me Ke Aloha Pumehana,
Debbie Leionalani Ryder
(Founder, Executive Director)