Hawaii’s Rich Culture Comes to Life at Wellesley College with a Hula Performance and a Week-Long Residency Led by World-Renowned Performing Troupe Hālau o Keikiali`i

September 13, 2016
RJ Muna
Wellesley, Mass. (September 12, 2016)—The Hawaiian cultural group Hālau o Keikiali`i, internationally known for live performances that tell the story of the Hawaiian people, will visit Wellesley College Saturday, September 17 for a main-stage performance entitled Ho`okupu: The Offering. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Jewett Art Center Auditorium. It will cap off a weeklong Hula residency during which members of Hālau o Keikiali`i will interact with students and faculty to learn about hula kahiko (ancient dance) and the chants, songs, arts, crafts, attire, and stories that come together in their performances. This event is free and open to the public, and reservations are recommended. (Details on how to make a reservation can be found here.)

Ho`okupu: The Offering will showcase hula as a practice and performance that is intimately linked to the customs of the Hawaiian people, their beliefs, and the natural world that surrounds them. Their performance will highlight the deep and old connections between New England and Hawaii, including historic visits to Wellesley College by the last two queens of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1887 and 1893.

“Kumu Kawika Alfiche, artist director of the company, is a culture bearer, community leader, scholar, and a master performer and teacher,” said Isabel Fine, the music department’s concert series manager. “He researches and performs ancient chants and dances, some of which are rarely even seen in the Islands.” During his visit, the group’s director will be teaching hula dances to members of the Wellesley student group Hui ‘o Hawai`i. The students will then perform these dances with Hālau o Keikiali`i on Saturday. “Kumu’s visit is a unique opportunity for members of Hui ‘o Hawai`i and the Wellesley community to experience and appreciate Native Hawaiian culture beyond they way it is marketed in the tourist industry,” said Emily Natori ’17, president of the group.

The group’s residency includes a free Midday Muse event on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in the Houghton Chapel, and public workshops on Saturday (registration required) in the art of hula, lei-making, and lauhana weaving (which uses leaves from the hala tree to make everything from mats to decorative baskets, jewelry, and hats), in the Houghton Multifaith Center. The residency gives the campus community “an opportunity to delve deeper into diverse traditions and cultures, not simply learning about them, but becoming part of their celebrations through dance, lei-making, and sacred rituals,” said Tiffany Steinwert, dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

Bridging Hawaiian tradition with Wellesley’s own traditions, the group will also work with students to create leis for use in Wellesley’s oldest and longest-surviving tradition, called Flower Sunday, dating back to 1875. As part of this fall tradition, first-year students receive flowers from an older student with whom they have been paired, signifying their “official” welcome into the College community. The leis will honor Hui o Hawai`i, the student group, commemorating its first Flower Sunday as an official student organization. The leis will also enhance the flower-filled Houghton Chapel for the community multifaith service that follows the Flower Sunday ceremony.

The program is hosted by the Wellesley College Concert Series and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life with support from the Office of Intercultural Education, the student group Hui o Hawai`i, the Wellesley College Music Department, the Marjorie Copland Baum Memorial Fund, the Florence Jeup Ford ’22, Mary M. Crawford ’22, and Virginia Ford ’48 Artists in Residence Endowment Fund, and the local and regional Hawaiian community.

About Hālau o Keikiali`i
The Hawaiian cultural group Hālau o Keikiali`i is a world-renowned performing troupe that works to spread the rich culture of the Hawaiian people. Kumu Kawika Alfiche, the group’s leader, has been teaching hula to youth and adults of all ages for more than 15 years. He has been a longtime advocate of the Hawaiian culture, and has been able to bring to the mainland the essence of past and present communities of the Hawaiian people, and their traditional customs, values, and protocols. The group is composed of men and women, young and old, ranging from 5 to 75 years of age. They share what they learn with different communities so that others can benefit from a better understanding and appreciation of the old ways of Hawaii, exposing the spirit of aloha to them through stage productions held for the general public throughout the year, as well as educational workshops, performances, and other cultural events.

About Wellesley College
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to some 2,400 undergraduate students from 49 states and 58 countries.