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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wahine legacy

Video: Celebrating women's history

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer

Edith Kanaka'ole Songwriter, educator (1913-1979)

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Mary Kawena Pukui Hawaiian scholar, linguist (1895-1986)

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'Iolani Luahine Hula master (1915-1978)

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"Keepers of the Flame" producer Myrna Kamae and her husband, Eddie Kamae.

Photos courtesy Myrna Kamae

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EVENT

He Ho'olaule'a No Na Mo'olelo o Na Wahine

A celebration of women's history

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28

Mission Memorial

Auditorium, Honolulu Civic Center, 500 S. King St.

Free ($15 catered lunch can be pre-ordered)

Register by Friday

522-0831

Among the speakers/topics: Noele Kahanu (Princess Nahi'ena'ena), Trisha Kehaulani Watson (Queen Ka'ahumanu), Mary Judd (Laura Fish Judd), Helen Kwock Chock (Hawaiian cuisine), Sister Alicia Damien Lau (Mother Marianne Cope), Betsy Forrest Robb (Madge Tennent).

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Myrna Kamae isn't used to taking the floor, but this time, it's for a good cause.

"I usually send people to Eddie," said the wife of Eddie Kamae, the musician, composer and documentarian who's certainly used to the spotlight from his days in the Sons of Hawai'i with Gabby Pahinui.

But Myrna Kamae, who produced the one-hour documentary "Keepers of the Flame: The Legacy of Three Hawaiian Women," gave a small sigh.

Her documentary, the eighth in the "Hawaiian Legacy Series," will be screened as part of He Ho'olaule'a No Na Mo'olelo o Na Wahine, a celebration of women's history being presented by the Friends of 'Iolani Palace.

"Since it's women's history, I guess I have to be the one," she said, then laughed.

Kamae's history is pretty colorful, too: Before embarking on the "Hawaiian Legacy Series," she worked in the lieutenant governor's office and as a production assistant for the state Department of Education in educational television. You'd have to find that out from other sources, however. She only volunteers information about the film, sponsored by Pacific Islanders in Communications, which chronicles the historical importance of Hawaiian scholar and linguist Mary Kawena Pukui (1895-1986), hula master 'Iolani Luahine (1915-1978), and songwriter and educator Edith Kanaka'ole (1913-1979).

The April 28 event is not the first time the 2005 documentary has been screened it was in film festivals across the nation, from New York's Pacifika to Santa Cruz, Calif.'s Pacific Rim Film Festival. It won the audience choice award for best documentary at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

"Keepers of the Flame" also will be seen on PBS next month (8 p.m., May 10). And in September, the documentary is expected to be made available, along with study materials, to public schools, as the others in the series have been. (Check www.hawaiianlegacy .com.)

For its producer, the documentary was a chance to revisit the legacy of these remarkable women of the Big Island, whom Kamae had encountered over the years.

"One of the things I discovered, working on this documentary ... was how important women had been in the history of Hawai'i," she said. "The ranks of women ali'i were sometimes higher than the men."

The women of the documentary, like others in the Friends of 'Iolani Palace program, faced struggles to fulfill their purpose.

"It's interesting that these three women didn't have an easy time," Kamae said. "There was a lot of opposition to what they were doing. They were still pretty underground. Not everyone wanted some of the stories to be told."

For example, Pukui who spent a lifetime collecting entries, then another three years working on the Hawaiian Dictionary upset people by exposing hidden meanings and hidden stories.

But for her, "it was important that all the knowledge be shared, so her grandchildren would know the authentic culture," Kamae said.

That's the unifying theme to the film something equally important to Kamae.

"It was very challenging, because it has to be more than three bios stitched together," she said. "We wanted to weave their stories together. Even though they never worked together as a team, they were of the same time and doing similar work. Their entire lives were devoted to reviving this flame of Hawai'i's culture."

The three and others like them stood with the courage of a generation of women who carried the Hawaiian culture "when many people were starting to forget," she said.

"Today, you see this flame really burning brightly," Kamae said. "Some of the work they did continues to light the way for continuing generations."