In her ancient dances, she was the poet of the Hawaiian people…”Honolulu Advertiser”
A pure Hawaiian from Napo’opo’o, Hawaii, Harriet ‘Iolani Luahine was born on January 31, 1915. Hanai to her father’s ‘ohana on O’ahu, ‘Iolani was raised by her great aunt Julia Keahi Luahine. She named her “bird of heaven”. Aunty Keahi was the foremost hula instructor of her day and one of the last royal dancers from King Kalakaua’s
and Queen Lili’uokalani’s court. Dancing was just a part of everyday life for ‘Iolani.
She was enrolled in the Kamehameha Schools, but once her aunt found out that dancing hula was forbidden
by the missionary – indoctrinated institution, ‘Iolani was sent to the Priory, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral,
where hula dancing was permitted. ‘Iolani was an undergraduate at the University of Hawaii when
she began hula classes with Mary Kawena Puku’i. After the death of her aunty, ‘Iolani knew that
her mission in life was to carry on the traditions for the ones to come.
‘Iolani opened her studio in her home on Queen Street in 1946 and taught hula to students of
all ages. Collaboration and performances followed with Mary Kawena Puku’i and Lokalia
Montgomery to rave reviews. ‘Iolani and Lokalia were the first recipients of the State
Order of Distinction for Cultural Leadership in 1970. That same year, both women
received medals for their contribution to the arts from the State Foundation of
Culture and the Arts.
‘Iolani took the hula to the National Folk Festival in Wolf Trap, Virginia
three times, sharing the traditional art form with all its reverence
to the goddess Laka.
Descended from a long line of Kaua’i dancers, trained to
perform for the ali’i, ‘Iolani had inspired many
throughout her life. On December 10, 1978,
all of Hawaii mourned the passing of
‘Iolani Luahine. Her gift of hula will
long be remembered and this hula
festivals mission is to remember
those gifts she left for all of us