EXPIRED: 10/26/09 – George Na’ope, 81, wanted the world to do the hula. And he pretty much accomplished his goal.

Na’ope realized that the dance of his native Hilo, Hawai’i was becoming commercialized and done incorrectly, so he founded the Merrie Monarch Festival which grew into the world’s premiere hula competition. Na’ope wanted to spread the message of hula throughout the world. So besides create the Merrie Monarch and other hula festivals in Hawai’i, Na’ope made it a point to go to places such as Japan to teach hula.

“Uncle George,” as he was known, became a bridge between the hula masters of the past, such as ‘Iolani Luahine, Lokalia Montgomery and Tommy Hiona, and the younger generation of new hula names who have become popular largely as a result of the festival, such as Johnny Lum Ho, Aloha Dalire and Rae Fonseca.

He was the last link between that time and today. But it was more than that. Na’ope thought hula would help not only the Hawaiian people learn about their culture but he thought it would help people around the world understand their own nation and their languages and cultures.

Uncle George was a dapper man decked out in bright clothes and huge rings. In latter years, when he crept up the ramp to the Merrie Monarch stage to perform a hula during the finale, the crowd would go wild.

Na’ope has been battling with cancer and has had an inoperable brain tumor.




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