Every Easter weekend for the last two decades, something spectacular–and uniquely Hawaiian–has been happening at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua: the annual Celebration of the Arts. In the spirit of springtime resurrection, a celebration of Hawaiian arts, culture and environment has been a shining testament to the enduring–and resurging–qualities of Hawaiian tradition, and a platform for its continued evolution. Hosting workshops and discussions about all things Hawaiian, dozens of artisans, cultural practitioners, activists and philosophers fill the Ritz’s plush lobby hallways, ballrooms and grounds. From keiki to kupuna, hundreds of locals and visitors alike take part in this free festival–learning, sharing and growing in an atmosphere of creative camaraderie.
It’s easy to assume that fancy shmancy resorts insulate our visitors from true Hawaiian experiences. And indeed, even outside of our resort towns, it’s sometimes hard for residents–grown here or flown here–to find immersive, cultural authenticity untarnished by commercialism’s appropriation. But the Celebration of the Arts is the perfect way to discover the Hawaiian heart and soul of this Kapalua hotel, and enjoy the myriad ways it exalts Hawaiian arts and ideas, and how it all relates to the world at large.
“There’s no separatism. This event is about creating common ground through art, music intelligent conversation,” says Clifford Nae‘ole, the helmsman of the event and the Ritz’s longtime cultural advisor. “It’s an ecumenical weekend.”
The days are packed with free activities, workshops, panel discussions and performances. Plus, one hallmark of the event is that attendees have the uncommon opportunity to sit down with artisans and create artwork of their own. “This isn’t a generic swap meet,” Nae‘ole says. “Keepsakes aren’t bought, they’re created. Everyone’s relaxed. Everyone’s helping each other. There’s no hard sell.” In fact, but for the occasional, nominal supply fee, all the art projects (as with the events) are free–as many artisans generously provide their own materials. For example, you can sit down with beloved nose bamboo flute maker Calvin Hoe, who brings in long strands of bamboo and teaches his craft. Or, you can design and craft custom jewelry from rare Ni’ihau shells.
For the full experience, plan to stay the weekend at the Ritz (it’s the best excuse all year for a little indulgence; and kama‘aina rates start at $245 per night, including a breakfast buffet for two). But if you can only make a day-trip of it, pick Friday if you prefer less crowds and more one-on-one attention from artisan instructors, or Saturday if you like the colorful hustle and bustle of the festival’s busiest day. For more information, call 669-6200 or visit celebrationofthearts.org.
SCHEDULE (Events free)
FRIDAY, APRIL 6
OUT WITH THE BAD AND IN WITH THE GOOD: HI’UWAI & “E ALA E” CEREMONIES – 5:45-7am. Greet the dawn and rejuvenate your spirit with a ceremonial plunge (hi‘uwai) into the clear waters of Kapalua Bay. Several hundred attendees convene for the oli “E Ala E” (a sunrise chant) and cultural protocol. Keep in mind the mood’s much like church (e.g. no photography), and swim wear and towels are required.
KA WAI A KANE ‘AWA CEREMONY – 8:15-9:15am. To honor 20 years of dedication to Hawaiian arts, cultural practitioners and resort management gather to drink a traditional libation made of ‘awa root called ka wai a Kane, meaning “the bitter waters of Kane” (i.e. Kane, the leading of the four great Hawaiian gods). Public viewing is acceptable, however given the sacred nature of the ‘awa ceremony, photography is not allowed.
OPENING CEREMONIES: WEHE I KA PUKA – 10-10:45am. “Wehe i ka puka” means “open the door” and aptly titles the official opening ceremonies of the festival. This beautiful procession of protocol and traditional oli (chant) sets the tone for the event. Plus, The Namahana Award of Excellence will be given to two deserving na kupuna (elders) who’ve led a life supporting all things Hawaiian. The award was named in honor of the late Auntie Lydia Namahana Maioho, who championed the festival, year after year. Her “wonderful personality and zest for life,” Nae’ole says, epitomized the sharing spirit of the event.
MEET FINE ARTIST KATHY LONG AT THE VILLAGE GALLERY – 11am-1pm and 2-4pm. Kathy Long, a resident artist at Ritz-Carlton’s The Village Gallery, autographs and discusses her works of art. Plus, view the signature piece she’s created especially for the 20th annual festival. Continues on Sat., Apr. 7, 11am-1pm.
CREATE YOUR OWN TAKE-HOME WORKS OF CONTEMPORARY & TRADITIONAL ART – 11am-4pm. Dozens of artistans share their techniques (and, graciously, their materials) so that you can create your own take-home works of art. Artists’ details are available in a daily program insert from resort concierges. Continues on Sat., Apr. 7, 10am-4pm.
KA ‘OLELO MAKUAHINE (MOTHER TONGUE): HEAR THE HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE SPOKEN BY NI’IHAU ISLAND NATIVES AND CREATE PRIZED SHELL JEWELRY – 11am-4pm. Ho‘olohe (listen) and ho‘opuka (learn) from visiting na ‘ohana o Ni‘ihau (the families of Ni‘ihau). Meanwhile, craft custom jewelry from rare Ni‘ihau shells.
LIVE ENTERTAINMENT – 11:30am-12:15pm and 1:30-2:15pm. Because music and dance is part and parcel to Hawaiian culture and arts, melodic ensembles perform live in the lobby’s ambient Alaloa Lounge. Continues on Sat., Apr. 7, 11:30am-12:15pm and 1:30-2:15pm.
“HULAROBICS” – 11:30am-12:30pm. So you think you can hula? Graceful dancers may make Hawaii’s hallmark dance look effortless, but the sculpt of their hot hula bods make evident that hula’s hard work! “Hularobics” instructor Lopaka Bukoski shares hula’s challenging moves in a lively class that’s sure to make you stretch and sweat. Workout attire required. Continues on
Sat., Apr. 7, 9-10am.
“THE RAINBOW WITHIN YOU” KEIKI SONG WRITING WORKSHOP WITH HENRY KAPONO – 11:30-12:15pm. Henry Kapono, renowned Hawaiian entertainer and co-founder of the event, believes there’s a rainbow of creativity within us all. With his acclaimed musical know how (of which his numerous Na Hoku Hanohano awards and Grammy nominations are proof positive) and nurturing mien, Kapono helps keiki create their own expressive lyrics and songs.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURE: “NATURALLY HAWAIIAN” – 12-1pm and 3-4pm. Guided by professional naturalists, discover fascinating flora and fauna endemic to Hawaii, and learn how and why these species evolved. Hiking shoes required. Continues on Sat., Apr. 7, 12-1pm and 3-4pm.
“GREEN HARVEST” WITH CHEF APRIL – 12-1:15pm. No, they don’t mean that kind of green! But it’s a clever name for a garden tour and smoothie workshop, huh? Meet Chef April Matsumoto to learn about organic gardening, harvest produce and sip fresh concoctions. Continues on Sat., Apr. 7, 12-1:15pm.
FILM SCREENING: MY KO ALOHA STORY – 12:30-1:30pm. In this feature-length doco, learn how the Okami ‘ohana transformed their business from plastic fabrication to crafting instruments.
PUPPETRY AND BLACK LIGHT FUN FOR KEIKI WITH RACHEL DEBOER – 1-3pm and 3-3:30pm. The brilliant and bright Rachel Deboer–a visual and performance artist–returns to the festival, following her stunning 2011 black light production of “Na ‘Aumakua.” This year, 15 lucky keiki (first come, first served; ages 7-to 12-years-old) will create black light puppets and a play. Parents can stay to help with the creation process and everyone’s encouraged to attend the show, presented in the resort’s theater at 3pm.
THE HISTORY AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN GUARD – 1-3:30pm. Learn why The Royal Hawaiian Guard proudly continues its rich historical tradition to this day. This hands-on experience and lecture is presented by Paulo Feafine, the executive director of the group. Continues on Sat., Apr. 7, 1-3:30pm.
MAUI COMPOSERS AND THEIR MUSICAL LEGACY – 2-2:45pm. Auntie Noe Mahoe shares the histories of Maui’s talented composers past and present in a lovely testament to the evolution of na mele o Hawaii nei (the music of Hawaii).
LIVE MUSIC: NA MELE HO’IKE O MAUI – 3-4:15pm. Hotel choirs from Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, The Sheraton Maui and The Westin Maui show off their vocal talents. Last year’s event earned a standing ovation!
CELEBRATION AFTER-HOURS – 9pm-12am (no cover; 21+). What’s the perfect way to end an exciting day of exploration and enrichment? By enjoying the extraordinary Hawaiian falsetto talents of Kamakakehau Fernandez, of course! This after-party’s held and The Alaloa Lounge, and also celebrates the anticipated release of Fernandez’s debut album, Wahi Mahalo.
SATURDAY, APRIL 7
WORLDS CONVENE: “ALOHA LIVES IN DISTANT LANDS” – 10-11am. An international panel discusses the cross-cultural concept of aloha. Learn how the deeply multifaceted, loving expression of aloha is expressed in distant lands from Tibetan, African, Lakota Sioux and Hawaiian representatives.
“THE EVOLUTION OF THE CANOE” – 11:15am-12:15pm. The essence of the wa’a (canoe) goes beyond the realm of the ocean. In this insightful presentation, venerable Hawaiian watermen Kimokeo Kapahulehua and Iokepa Nae’ole explain how the spirit and sport of paddling has changed their lives–and the lives of countless others.
TASTE OF THE ISLANDS: “GOT POI? …GOT PLENTY!” – 12:30-1:30pm. Think wine and cheese tasting, but with fresh poi, poke (raw fish salad), and pipi kaula (dried, smoked beef)! Poi is a deliciously goopy pounded paste made of kalo, the staple starch of Polynesia. Learn why this radical root is considered sacred, as well as what ongoing efforts exist to protect its genetic sanctity. Featured varieties at this tasting include Moi from Keanae, Mana Lauloa from Hakipu‘u, and Lehua from Hanalei, plus ulu (breadfruit) from Waihe‘e. Be sure to arrive early, last year’s limu (seaweed) and poke tasting had a line out the door.
PERSONAL DISCOVERY: “WHAT KIND OF ANCESTOR WILL YOU BE?” – 1:45-2:30pm. This presentation asks the fascinating question, “What kind of ancestor will you be?” Exploring the answer, Hawaiian artist and historian Brook Kapukuniahi Parker (of the proud Parker Ranch heritage), explains his love for ancient chiefs and how their acceptance of kuleana (responsibility) has shaped he and his family to this day.
THINK TANK: “MOVING WITH THE SPEEED OF NATURE” – 2:45-3:45pm. Back in the day, we could only move so fast as our bodies or beasts could carry us. Today, we’re pressing toward the speed of light. But can the rest of the natural world keep up with our new, harried speed? How do we reconcile the rapid difference? A panel of concerned environmentalists explores the pace of the past and present, addressing climactic chances, causes, impacts and adaptations–all through indigenous eyes.
THE CELEBRATION LU’AU & SHOW – 6-8:30pm. See our Da Kine Calendar for details.
CELEBRATION AFTER-HOURS – 9pm-12am (no cover; 21+). Party it up with a performance by the three-man ensemble Waipuna. The group’s traveled from Oahu to celebrate the official release of their new album, E Ho‘i Mai.