John Kaimikaua's passion for hula launched halau, festival
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
What Ka'oi Kaimikaua will remember most about her late husband, John Kaimikaua, a well-known kumu hula and Hawaiian scholar, is his passion for hula and for sharing his knowledge of it.
"He was grateful for the knowledge (of hula) that he received," Ka'oi Kaimikaua said. "He really didn't know what he was going to do with it, not until he opened his halau and then things began to unfold. He always said that the knowledge he has is for all people."
John Kaimikaua died Wednesday in his sleep at his Makakilo home. He was 47.
Kaimikaua shared with others on many occasions the story of the single event that changed his life and put him on the path to becoming a kumu hula. From the age of 5, he had an interest in Hawaiian culture and hula, said his wife. But it wasn't until he was 14 and met a woman known only as Kawahinekapuheleikapokane that he gained the knowledge of the old ways, which he would use for the rest of his life.
The 92-year-old Hawaiian woman, whose name means "sacred woman traveling on the night of the god Kane," shared with Kaimikaua 156 Moloka'i chants chronicling the history of the island where his own family had once lived. Kawahinekapuheleikapokane told Kaimikaua she was a descendent of a priestly kahuna line. That knowledge would later lead Kaimikaua to start his halau, Halau Hula O Kukuna'okala, at the age of 19.
Kaimikaua was also well-known as the founder of the annual Moloka'i Ka Hula Piko festival and for his belief that hula originated on the island of Moloka'i. Hula teachers and Hawaiiana experts have questioned the validity of Kaimikaua's claims, but he cited a hula genealogy dating back more than 1,000 years, passed down to him by Kawahinekapuheleikapokane.
Since 1978, Kaimikaua taught at Leeward Community College, the University of Hawai'i and, most recently, Hawai'i Pacific University. He lectured extensively on hula and Hawaiian culture around the world, his wife said.
Kaimikaua is survived by his wife, Ka'oi; hanai daughter, Kiana May Spriggs-Kahalewai; mother, Pualani; brother, Kevin; and sisters, Mona Pacheco and Johnelle. Visitation will be held June 19 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-Makakilo Hawaii Stake Center from 8 a.m. to noon. Services will follow. An additional service, and burial, will take place on Moloka'i on June 21. Family has requested aloha attire, and halau are welcome to bring ho'okupu, or offerings.
Reach Loren Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org.