Elehna de Sousa
It is here, on Molokai, that the goddess Laka gave birth to the hula. I have come to attend Ka Hula Piko, the annual celebration commemorating this great event.
Puna, my hula teacher, flies in to meet me and says that I must dance at Hula Piko. I protest, tell her that my calves are so painful from the hike yesterday that I can barely walk, let alone dance. She insists that hula protocol must be followed, which means that as the eldest daughter of a renowned hula kumu (teacher), she cannot be present without offering a contribution. And I, as her first student, and the only one there, must dance.
I am reluctant, but we set off in the middle of the night, driving as far as we can up a dirt trail, and then walking further up to where the ceremony is to be held. It is beneath this hill, Pu’u Nana, that the remains of Laka were once secretly hidden. It is pitch black, difficult to see anything but the next step in front of me. I am freezing cold, despite my long underwear brought all the way from Canada, and many layers of clothing—hard to believe this is Hawaii. We sit with the other halaus, blankets around us, huddled in silence, as the dancers go up in turn, invisible. The atmosphere is trancelike, the rhythm of the kumus drum and the chants are mesmerizing. This is kahiko (ancient hula) in it’s most sacred and powerful form—no lights, cameras or recordings allowed—I can see very little in the dark and feel somewhat disoriented. I dread my turn, but puna tells me not to worry. she assures me that like everyone else, I too will be invisible, cloaked in the blackness of night.
on the mountain top
first ray of light
—silhouette of a hula dancer