Wow, 2020! What a year. It wasn’t exactly the 20th anniversary we had hoped for at HPS, but it was a strong reminder to count our blessings and be grateful for our kūpuna and their fortitude and dedication. The journey was inspired by Auntie Nona Beamer’s natural curiosity and zest for learning! She wanted to have conversations with fellow hula folks “of the age” like her (she was 76 when we started!), and we truly had no idea what the subsequent years would hold for HPS with our elders. The first official oral history was in December, 2000, in Waimea, Hawaiʻi Island, with Auntie Queenie Ventura Dowsett. Auntie Nona and Maile Loo had seen her speak at the Hawaii Theatre in conjunction with a screening of the 1941 Hollywood movie she appeared in, “Bird of Paradise.” Through her sharing about being with and learning from the one and only, ʻIolani Luahine, Auntie and Maile said to each other, “We need to go talk with her!” And so it began. Auntie Nona and Auntie Queenie had led separate lives in hula for many decades by that point, and this sitdown at Auntie Queenieʻs homestead was the first time theyʻd gotten together to talk-story. What a time it was. We stayed for two days! Hard to leave when you’re in full view of majestic Mauna Kea.
In June 2020, long-time volunteer, Auntie Winnie Wong Naihe, turned 88 years young. Every year, we would look forward to a grand birthday celebration at HPS with our team, volunteers, and Auntie’s extended family. Well, this time around, it was all about safely connecting however we could, sooooo… Zoom it was! Some of Auntie’s children and grandchildren joined in, along with members of our team. Too many to fit on one screen, but here’s a look at one iteration—Auntie is in the center box with her birthday lei. We first met Auntie Winnie in 2003 through her Kumu Kent Ghirard that we had the pleasure of interviewing starting in 2001. She was in his professional troupe, the Hula Nanis, in the early 1950s. They had a beautiful life through hula for the subsequent five decades until his passing in 2011. Last year, Auntie Winnie’s daughter, Ipo (in center box with mom), began to join her at the office, volunteering for HPS and bringing wonderful energy and aloha to the cause, just like her dedicated mom!