Photo caption: Kumu Maka Herrod teaches, performs and carries the art of hula worldwide in his effort to share Hawaiian culture and values. Photos by John Sizelove
Photo caption: Herrod joined kumus Puna Kalama-Dawson, Nathan Kalama and Doric Yaris in 1996 to form Hui o Kalamaola. The halau support each other by attending performances and creating workshops together. In 2014, Kaua`i will host, Ka Aha Hula O Halauaola, the 10-day World Conference on Hula.
By Pam Woolway
Editor’s note: Chosen in January to receive the For Kauai Aloha Spirit Award for Kupuna Kane, Maka Herrod works around the clock and around the world, sharing the art of hula, its celebration of the natural world, as well as how hula develops the most important parts of what it means to be human.
From memory, Kumu Maka Herrod of Halau Na Hui O Kamakaokalani, recites a Hawaiian proverb:
“Lawe I ka ma`alea a ku`ono`ono.”
“It means, ‘Acquire a skill and make it deep.”
His customary playful demeanor deferred momentarily, he explains:
“To be good you practice hard until it becomes a part of you.”
For all of his buoyancy and humor, Herrod takes his hula seriously; this ancient cultural expression the embodiment of Hawaiian ideals.
While on one hand hula enjoys a Renaissance, on the other, it’s at risk of misinterpretation, as halau (hula groups) sprout in countries far removed from the dance’s principle values.
“There are thousands of halau worldwide, including Mexico, Asia, Europe and Japan,” Herrod said. “It’s grown, I think, because of the rich history and the values connected with hula.”
To simply call hula a dance limits it at best. Culturally speaking, it might be one of the highest forms of Hawaiian expression. Hula values include kokua (service); ahounui, (patience); lokahi, (unity); and malama, (to nurture).
Joy, though not named, would appear to be a natural by-product of sincere practice, if Herrod is any indication. When he’s not teaching or performing, his flirtatious stage presence and impish demeanor make him an irresistible candidate as emcee for events throughout the Islands.
Herrod founded Na Hui O Kamakaokalani in May, 1992 and presently the halau thrives in Lihu`e and Kapa`a.
Five years ago Herrod accepted directorship of the Mokihana Festival from co-founder, Kumu Nathan Kalama. The week-long festivities celebrate Hawaiian culture with educational lectures, music and hula. Visit maliefoundation.org for more information.
“That was a turning point,” Herrod said.
The father of three made a bold move by leaving his traditional work in human resources to focus his energy on teaching hula here and abroad.
“People in other cultures want to learn hula and we need to wake up to malama (care for) what is ours. We need to be sure they are doing it right,” he said.
When doors opened in Japan he introduced “Hui Aloha,” a hula instruction program made up of seven sensei (Japanese teachers) who come to Kaua`i to study with him.
“To unite people you have to win their trust,” he said.
And to win trust meant investing in the education of teachers. Herrod wants his sensei to feel confident enough to come participate in the Mokihana Festival in September.
“They need to be able to connect the songs and chants they dance to, to this place.”
Drawing a heart on a napkin, Herrod writes “hula” in the center.
He describes hula as the heart with a network of veins branching outward. At the center is the dance, he says, but what travels out to the rest the body – the world – is the mele, history, art, adornments, values, language, and most importantly, kuleana – the responsibility to share hula as close to the source as possible.
That is a tall order. But one Herrod clearly has the vision, enthusiasm and integrity to carry out.
He continues to seek guidance from his childhood teacher, Aunty `Iwalani Tseu of `Iwalani School of Dance, who he quotes as advising him to ‘malama our hula history.’
“It means the hula family has to do more together,” he said. “It’s called keeping the light burning.”
To that end, Herrod joined kumus Puna Kalama-Dawson, Nathan Kalama and Doric Yaris in 1996 to form Hui o Kalamaola. The halau support each other by attending performances and creating workshops together.
In 2014, Kaua`i will host, Ka Aha Hula O Halauaola, the 10-day World Conference on Hula. Presently the organizers seek sponsorship, donors and are traveling the islands and abroad offering pre-conference training to halau. Visit their Facebook page for more information.
As for being voted honorary Kupuna Kane in For Kaua`i’s Aloha Spirit Awards, Herrod is overtly humbled.
“This award is received by me with full aloha for my kupuna for their work and their vast knowledge that they continue to share with all of us.”