How was aloha ‘āina expressed in the cultural arts of ancient Hawai‘i? Kekuhi Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani tells the story of the goddess Hi‘iaka’s first hula—a great image, she says, to answer that question.
“The Pele clan have just migrated from the horizon and arrived in Hawai‘i. One day the family goes down to the shore to gather food and Hi‘iaka is off with her friend Hopoe. Her sister Pele is looking for her and asks all the rest of the Hi‘iakas, ‘Where is our younger sibling?’ As they get closer to the ocean, they get a sense of someone chanting in the forest. Pele and her family see Hi‘iaka dancing. She’s learned the art of dancing from Hopoe. Hopoe is the entity of the full-bloomed lehua. And so what Hi‘iaka is doing is expressing her in-the-moment rapture with the beauty of the full-bloomed lehua. Hi‘iaka begins to move her body in the way that the wind is moving the trees and the waves at that very moment. And so that is Hi‘iaka’s way of celebrating aloha ‘āina.”