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Kumu Hula Invoke Kapu To Stop COVID-19 Spread

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
A group of kumu hula held a virtual press conference last week to urge Hawai'i residents, especially Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, to observe a 30-day kapu mauli ola - a period of discipline and focus on healthy living.

In response to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Hawai?i, some are turning to cultural practice and tradition for answers. Dozens of kumu hula are calling for a 30-day kapu – a period of discipline and focus on well-being – to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Practitioners of one of Hawai?i?s most popular cultural traditions – hula – have joined forces to mobilize Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“It is time that we look to our culture for the response and the solutions that we need,” says hula practitioner Mehanaokal? Hind.

Hind says more than two dozen kumu hula have committed to a 30-day kapu mauli ola – a time of enhanced focus on healthy living. The group included esteemed Kumu Hula H?k?lani Holt-Padilla, leader of the Pa?? O Hi?iaka h?lau.

“A kapu is a code of behavior to maintain balance. How we should or should not act. It is based on our relationship to our akua, our ??ina and our fellow kanaka,” says Holt-Padilla. “This kapu mauli ola have dos and don’ts. So don't think of a kapu as only don’ts. We do have dos as well.”

Do eat healthy food. Do your daily pule or prayer. Do think of the well-being of others. Do let the ??ina rest and rejuvenate.

“We have don’ts as well. The don’ts are meant to seek an overall desire for mauli ola or well-being,” says Holt-Padilla. “Don’t gather with those outside your immediate household. Don’t forget to wear your face mask outside of your home and car. Don’t touch your face.”

These are just a few of the codes of behavior that the group is committing to. The kapu began with the rising of the Mauli moon on August 16 and will run for three anahulu or 10-day periods until the next Mauli moon on September 14.

The hope, says Hind, is to see a drop in daily cases and an increase in smart and healthy behaviors.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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