What Are The Requirements To 'Uniki as a Traditional Kumu Hula?
What is being shared on these pages are the traditions given to me in my training as Kumu Hula. Other traditions may vary
"Always remember that all knowledge is not held in any one Halau or Hula Tradition"
3RD step on the journey to 'uniki
The final level is Kumu Hula, or Hula Master. This level of study is roughly analogous to achieving one's Doctorate Degree. At this level the candidate's knowledge must be expanded to encompass all of the many aspects of the hula. A study of Hawaiian history is essential. An intimate knowledge of the various ali'i and their genealogy is another important aspect. Protocol is stressed. Independent translation and interpretation in dance or chant are required. The significance of color, floral decorations and costuming are examined. Testing at this level includes examining the written materials the candidate has assembled on each of the ali'i, as well as written exams to test the depth of that knowledge. Examination by other Kumu Hula is continued throughout this period of training as well.
In our tradition, the candidate for Kumu Hula must make their second lei hulu (feather lei) to wear at the head. This one is a spiral design - very difficult and painstaking to make. The making of the feather lei is an exercise in patience: an important quality for a prospective kumu hula. In our school, at each level, the candidate is exposed to other hula traditions by sharing with other Kumu Hula. This provides a broader knowledge of styles and an increased repertoire of hula and oli. It is this Kumu's desire that each succeeding generation have a broader base of knowledge than the one that went before.
Unlike western education which narrows the focus of study to a speciality with each successive level of training, in the hula each step in the 'uniki process serves to broaden the base of study. Even when one finally achieves the status of Kumu Hula, the individual study continues. The Kumu Hula should now possess the tools for the real work of research and creativity that allow them to take their craft to the next level. I think it has become clear that the true value of the path to 'uniki is the journey, not the destination. The destination is a moving target. Every Kumu Hula is a lifelong student in this wonderful work. When the Kumu Hula feels the haumana (students) are sufficiently trained, the final 'uniki dates are set. The ancient process is the ideal one in which there are students preparing at each level of study ('Olapa, Ho'opa'a and Kumu Hula). When this is the case, the students at the lower levels ('Olapa) serve as the dancers for the students at the higher levels (Ho'opa'a or Kumu Hula), and each group has the possibility of 'uniki at their own level during the 'uniki rites. This rarely happens in these times. Very few candidates are willing, or able, to fulfill the exacting requirements to achieve the various titles. We live in a world that is accustomed to speed and short cuts. While we employ many of today's tools in the learning process - tools such as tape recorders, videotape, written notes - the mele and the oli must be imprinted in the body of the dancer, not just in the mind. This is the old way, and the only way to become a traditional Kumu Hula in the sense as it has been given to me.
At the conclusion of the public 'uniki presentation, the successful candidate will be presented with a kihei (long one shoulder garment) that has been printed with the symbols of the particular tradition of that halau. The kihei, with its hand stained pattern unique to the particular tradition of the Kumu Hula, is the proud symbol of a traditionally trained kumu hula who has received the 'uniki rites. Thus the kîhei along with the ki (ti) leaf ka (braided ti leaf beater) are the outward symbols of the authority of the Kumu Hula. Historically, the candidates do not know until the moment of presentation whether they have been judged to be successful in their studies. If they have passed the scrutiny of their Kumu and have been deemed worthy, they will receive the kihei as their symbol of authority. If not, they must return to their study and wait for another day.
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