ABOUT THE ARTIST

  • Kumu Hula: Voted most popular Big Island kumu hula in Hawai`i Island Journal reader polls in 2001, Pekelo clearly has a gift for teaching and inspiring his haumana (students). In fact, early students included Keali`i Reichel, Uluwehi Guerrero, and Pauline Leilani Brown, who now have their own hula halau on Maui.

  • Early years: Born and raised in Ke`anae, Maui, Pekelo learned his hula and chant traditions from his ancestors. His dedication to hula was foretold by his grandmother, Wilhemina Kealohanui, who on her deathbed instructed her daughter to “take care and guide this grandson of mine well in the sacred dance.” At age 13, he won first place in oli at the Kamehameha Day competition on O`ahu and was recognized as the youngest instructor in the state. He lists Haunani Kauahi Judd, Sam Naeole, Edith Kanaka`ole, and George Naope among his kumu.

  • Hawai`i Island: Pekelo moved to the Big Island in 1979 and for many years made his home in Kahuku, Ka`u District. He has founded several halau and developed a reputation for turning “at risk” youth into award-winning hula dancers – Pekelo feels strongly that rediscovering a positive identity through connection with Hawaiian culture can be extremely beneficial.

  • Ka`u HulaFest: In 1996, Pekelo founded the annual Hula and the Arts Cultural Festival as a way to “give back to the community.” For six years, HulaFest was THE PLACE to be over Labor Day weekend. It featured top entertainers and spectacular as well as unusual hula performances. A small army of volunteers would transform Wai`ohinu Park into a festive site with thousands of people coming to enjoy two days of hula, music, crafts, food, and socializing. All of the entertainers donated their performances in a celebration that was absolutely free to everyone in a true expression of aloha. Lucky are those of us fortunate enough to have experienced HulaFest - mahalo Pekelo!