Text and photos by Lily Kharrazi, Living Cultures Grants Program
February 13, 2013

“You have the middle section of the fish, where’s your head?  Where’s your tail? Where is your past?  Where’s your future?”

The Hawaiian proverb asks the questions: who are you and where do you come from? It implies that without knowledge of one’s history and memory, much is at risk.   Without collective wisdom we can lose a sense of ourselves which is where ill health will sow its seeds. This proverb was the basis of a session by master healer and Kumu Hula (teacher) Loea Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett at  the Ho’okahi Pu’uwai workshop series organized by Living Cultures Grants Program grantee, the Holistic Honu Wellness Center of Berkeley, California.

Under the leadership of executive director and health practitioner, Leslie Susan Kawaioni’okekaikaiona’okalani Ko, the Center has produced a series of 5-day workshops by the staff and volunteers of the Center, along with one of the great masters of Hawaiian culture, healing, and dance: Kumu Hewett.  The workshops are designed to honor and celebrate the relationship between Hula and Hawaiian healing arts.  Ho’okahi Pu’uwai translates to “one heart” or “singular focus,” as in working together in unison.  The intention of bringing hula and ho’ola/healing practitioners together reflects a natural overlap of principles which place the idea of well-being within the practice of traditional arts. The Hula is a repository of information and concepts, as well as an art form of beauty.  To articulate the relationship of this arts practice to healing arts, participants attended from all parts of California, the U.S, Poland, and Germany.   

Kumu Hewett apprenticed with one of Hawaii’s last great healers, Kahuna Emma deFries, who was recognized in the 1970’s by the Hawaiian legislature as a cultural treasure and one of the last in a historic lineage known for work in the art of natural medicinal healing.  Kumu Hewett’s lineage has prepared him for the task of diagnostic skill assessment of spirit-related illness, direct observations, dream interpretation, physical palpitation to identify imbalances, herbal medicine preparation, touch therapy, spiritual mediation through chants and prayers, cultural counseling, and resolution through Ho’oponopono.  Pono is the natural order.  The concept is derived from a long complex creation myth but in essence tells us what healers are ultimately charged to do:  establishing balance and harmony. 

Native Hawaiians will solicit the healer to bring peace to a conflict.  The Ho’oponopono is based on unconditional love and forgiveness.  The removal of “conflict” will allow for health.  The principles seem to be an antecedent to 12- step programs which are utilized in the West to treat addictive behavior.  This mele, or chant, was provided by Kumu Hewett and demonstrates the concept used to resolve conflict:

Song to reestablish the order;
It is a tradition that is based on forgiveness;
Forgiveness is mandatory; there are no exceptions to the rule;
“O Ke Aloha Ka Mea I Ho’ola Ai”: Aloha perpetuates life.

I seek your forgiveness, God
Release me of my wrongdoings, God
Bring the love, God
Restore the order, God.

While he travels worldwide to teach Hula and healing arts, Kumu Hewett demands that his students, whether Native Hawaiian or not, complete their studies through the rigor of understanding the Hawaiian language and asks them to explore their genealogy. The recitation of genealogy is the method by which a healer establishes his or her credentials.  A traditional healer will come from a recognized lineage. Additionally, the chanting of lineage through the mele or song holds memory.  It keeps alive the past connecting it to the present. As practitioners learn aspects of their craft, they learning that this knowledge exists in a specific cultural context. 

The Holistic Honu Wellness Center is currently working on ways in which to support the traditional, oral-based knowledge with an innovative online curricula.  This will support and supplement Kumu Hewett’s in-person trainings. The introduction of online material will be a way in which to archive and document the work for future generations.  It will also be a laboratory in which to explore the expansion and limitations of technology in support of a largely oral and observational practice.  

The next iteration of the Holistic Honu Wellness Center’s Ho’okahi Pu’uwai workshops will be held April 10-14, 2013, in Sacramento, California.  Visit their website for more information.