Unukupukupu to return to Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Unukupukupu performed at the Library of Congress during their trip to Washington, D.C. for the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Members of the Hawaiʻi Community College hula hālau Unukupukupu have been invited back to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2013 after opening the festival last year with a performance on the main stage that thrilled the international audience.

Taupōuri Tangarō and four other members of Unukupukupu will travel to Washington, D.C. this summer and take part in the upcoming 2013 Folklife Festival program, “One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage.”

As a preview to Hawaiʻi’s participation in the 2013 Folklife Festival, the Smithsonian produced a short documentary video in which Tangarō, a hula professor at HawCC, describes the connection between the Native Hawaiian language and hula.

“If there’s a hula dance, there’s words,” Tangarō says in the video. “We can’t dance without narrative. The language is how we communicate to our universe. People think hula is choreography. Hula is first a language that has a choreographical piece to it.”

View the video on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival website.

Second year of UH participation in Folklife Festival

Last year, the University of Hawaiʻi was among 20 public land-grant universities featured in the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, “Campus and Community.” Dozens of faculty, staff, students and supporting community members affiliated with UH traveled to the festival and shared Native Hawaiian culture with the attendees.

The Smithsonian is funding Unukupukupuʻs trip this year, and Tangarō said it was a thrill to be invited back.

“It is a privilege to demonstrate the role hula plays in the reacquisition of Hawaiian language as well as the significant role language plays in hula,” Tangarō said. “Hula is mostly known throughout the world as the exotic dance of Hawaiʻi so it’s advantageous to step onto a national platform and speak to the other aspects of hula that are largely underrepresented if they are represented at all.”

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