WCC Hawaiian Studies: Hele On!

Image by Armi Habal

Image by Armi Habal

Now that construction of the traditional hale has been completed next to Hale A’o, what’s next for Hawaiian Studies?


Kalo cultivation

The department is currently clearing two acres behind the hale so it can start a kalo lo’i (taro garden). Traditional kalo cultivation will be taught in the hale by kumu (teacher) Liko Hoe, who also runs a poi factory in Waiāhole.

Hawaiian Studies kumu and students currently use a small lo‘i and a large planter behind Hale A’o for growing kalo and various plants for HWST 285: Lā’au Lapa’au — Hawaiian Medicinal Herbs.


Hawaiian music

 Slack key guitar and ‘ukulele are offered through WCC’s music department.

“Music’s role in Hawaiian Studies is really important because the Hawaiian culture was traditionally an oral history,” kumu Kamuela Kimokeo says. He explains that the rhythm of music helps people memorize the oral histories.

He says music is important because it carries the language of the Hawaiian people. “It provided a worldview of how they saw the world, and it gave a flowery description of what they perceived.”

He also points out with a smile that the kaona (hidden meanings) in Hawaiian music and poetry are a way to say something about something or someone and still maintain plausible deniability.

Jacqueline Loui, a beginning ‘ukulele student, is a retiree who has lived in Kāne’ohe since 1984. Now that she has more time, she says she wants to learn about the place where she was born and its language and culture through music. “It’s the music and the hula that makes Hawai‘i unique,” she says.

She chuckles when she says she hasn’t touched an ‘ukulele in over 50 years. “Music is what makes people smile. It’s a universal language, and it’s evocative, bringing back memories.”

Loui praises Kimokeo as a music teacher and professional musician. “He makes learning music fun, and students want to come back to learn more.”



Hula and music were the oldest forms of history dating back before pre-contact times, and they go “hand in hand,” says kumu Makanani Salā . They helped in remembering long stories like the “Kumulipo,” which was 2,000 lines long and told of the origin of the Hawaiian people.

“Hula and music are very important because it can take us back to first-person stories of Hawaiian history,” Salā says.


Full cultural education

Hawaiian Studies is on the move, preserving, perpetuating and revitalizing the Hawaiian culture, language and traditions at WCC.

Hawaiian language courses are offered during the day and evening on campus and at Waimanalo Elementary School.

But Kumu Keoki Faria says that language classes aren’t enough.

“The language classroom can’t cover everything to help students build a better worldview and to function adequately in the language. That’s why we have other Hawaiian courses to build on that.”

WCC student Kanoe Ikeda says, “Hawaiian Studies gives every student a different way to see, hear, feel, taste and smell the world.”

Come join in the efforts and learn about the culture. A hui hou!


by Wayne Ricks, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter