In the beginning, 18 years ago, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's Celebration of the Arts came to life on Easter weekend.
"The original intent was to create common ground through art, food and entertainment," recalled Clifford Nae'ole, the Ritz's cultural adviser and longtime chairman of the event.
"The event has changed. What we found missing was more of a local voice, a Hawaiian voice. The common ground is still there, but it has become a venue where Hawaiians are addressing themselves. At last they have a place where they can come and learn about themselves. But on a lighter note, we're all having a good time learning."
Filling the luxurious ballrooms, corridors and grounds with hands-on art projects; hula, music and theatrical performances; film; and provocative panels and workshops taking on the most current issues in historic and contemporary Hawaiian life, the celebration continues to win acknowledgement for its authenticity and integrity. Its events are almost all free, and there's an open invitation to the Maui community to take part, learn and enjoy.
"The accolades keep coming in, that's always a good thing," acknowledges Clifford on the eve of the 19th annual celebration. "But when the Hawaiians call us and say they want to come back, that's how we measure our success."
While delving into history with care and accuracy, the event also pushes the envelope for contemporary expressions of the culture. Highlights this year include "E Na Aumakua," a human blacklight puppet show created and produced by performance artist Rachel DeBoer. "It's about Hawaiian things, but in an avant-garde sense," says Nae'ole. A panel will consider the impact of George Kanahele, "who turned heads in the Hawaiian visitor industry by envisioning a sense of place."
As opposed to other arts-and-crafts events, at the Ritz, "The artisans and crafters are not there to sell, but there to interact. It's all about the interaction, through the hands-on art and the discussions."
In spite of the Ritz's economic setbacks of late, and the fact that celebration has never made sense in financial terms, Nae'ole repeated General Manager Tom Donovan's commitment to it.
"We need to move forward with this event. We can't even think about not. It's always been about the right thing to do. Everybody's watching their pennies more. But the value of the event is way more than the sacrifice."
Among its many unique accomplishments, the Ritz celebration has always managed to find meeting ground between new visitors to this place and those whose genealogies go back centuries.
Many of its presentations this year focus on the Hawaiian belief in aumakua, which Nae'ole sums up as "the embodiment of a loved one who has transitioned, and come back as a form of nature. Nature continues to care for mankind in shelter, food, medicine. It's our responsibility to see that nature continues."
It's making such things understandable to newcomers in a way that doesn't violate them for practitioners that's the celebration's signature.
"It brings both sides to see what aumakua is about," he says. "We see everybody equally. We are all connected. Again, we see the common ground."
Here's the schedule for The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's 19th annual Celebration of the Arts. For more information, visit www.celebrationofthearts.org.
6 7 a.m. "E ala e" DT Fleming Beach: Traditional ceremonies to awaken the sun and rejuvenate the spirit. Swimwear and towels a necessity. Facilitated by Lokepa Nae'ole.
8 9 a.m. "Ka wai a kane" Aloha Pavilion Courtyard: Practitioners and event participants commit to another year of supporting the culture by consuming awa, "the bitter waters of Kane."
10 11 a.m. "Wehe ka ipuka" Lobby: Chants of genealogies and origin officially open the 19th annual Celebration of the Arts. The "Namahana Award of Excellence" will be presented to a kane (male) and wahine (female) who has led a lifetime of commitment to na mea Hawaii ... all things Hawaiian.
11 a.m. 1 p.m. Robert Wagstaff art Village Gallery: Winnie Wagstaff presents works celebrating the art and life of Robert Wagstaff.
11 a.m. noon "Hularobics" Ambassadors of the Environment entrance: Stretch your muscles and engage in the Hawaiian culture of Hula with instructor Lopaka Keali'ikanaka'ole. Comfortable exercise attire should be worn.
11 a.m. 4 p.m. "Kiheipili" Hawaiian patchwork quilting Salon 4: A display and classes given by Ku'ulei Martinson. $30 fee for materials. Classes ongoing all day.
11 a.m. 4 p.m. Hands-on Art and Demonstrations throughout the hotel: Contemporary and traditional artists help you to create your own keepsake. See daily insert at concierge and front desk.
11 a.m. 4 p.m. "Na Aumakua Images" Salon 3: Selected art from Maui County High School students vie for top honors regarding their personal interpretation of Na Aumakua.
11 a.m. 4 p.m. "Ka 'olelo makuahine" Hawaiian Garden: Create a prized Niihau shell earring or wristlet. Learn the traditions of a Niihau family as they share the language of their ancestors and the jewels of the ocean. $35 fee for materials.
11 a.m. 12:15 p.m. "The Green Harvest Tour" Banyan Tree Restaurant: The chefs of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua have created their own garden of Eden to provide the freshest spices and ingredients. The chef will lead a garden tour finishing off with a tasty "green smoothie."
11:15 a.m. 12 p.m. Na Kupuna Ohana Serenaders The Alaloa Lounge: The music and hula of Hawaii performed with "sass and class" by the senior citizens of Lahaina!
11:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. "Kamapua'a ... the Mischievous One" Salon 1: Kahu Lyons Kapi'ioho Naone speaks of the notorious Kamapua'a, a demigod with a split personality.
11:30 a.m. 1:30 p.m. Ambassadors of the Environment Center: The Ambassador naturalists pay tribute to "Earth day" and Hawaii's culture with a fun and meaningful scavenger hunt and "planting."
12 12:45 p.m. "Kohala Kuamo'o, the Race to Save a King" Theater: The Kawai'ae'a family represent the authors, illustrators and storytellers of their book telling the mo'olelo (story) of the Chief Nae'ole and his efforts to protect the infant to be king ... Kamehameha.
12 4 p.m. "E Inu Ka Awa!" Awa anyone? Salon 4: Sample the Polynesian drink used for relaxation and/or protocol. Kumu Hula Kapono'ai Molitau and his halau host an informal awa bar reflecting upon its history, significance and role in Hawaiian protocol. A minimal charge will be in effect as a fundraising effort for the hula school.
12 4 p.m. "Dive Into Art" Pool Upper Deck: Your opportunity to view beautiful High Def photography of Hawaii's underwater world within the comfort of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua pool! Snorkel gear requested but rentals will be available. Bring your camera!
12 1:45 p.m. "Dr. George Kanahele the Legacy Continues" Salon 2: Often considered as the father of "a sense of place," which fosters a Hawaiian presence within all phases of the hospitality industry, the late Dr. Kanahele's dream continues. Challenges still abound, but some goals have been reached. Noelani Mahoe, Makalapua Kanuha and Ka'inoa Horcajo speak about what was, is, and will be in the hospitality industry.
2 2:45 p.m. "E Na Aumakua" human blacklight puppet show! Salon 3: Body artist and producer Rachel DeBoer brings to life an avant-garde production of Hawaiian storytelling. Colors abound with surrealistic surroundings as Aumakua come to life in a unique show for the kids ... AND adults!
3 3:45 p.m. "Na Kupuna O Lokelani" Alaloa Lounge: Senior citizens from Wailuku will play, sway and sing out with Hawaiian heart and soul.
3 4:30 p.m. Ambassadors of the Environment Center: (See 11:30 a.m.)
3 5 p.m. Robert Wagstaff art Village Gallery: (See Friday).
4 5 p.m. "Na Aumakua ... Who, When, Where, Why" Salon 1: Kumu Hula Kapono'ai Molitau addresses the reality of and yet mystical entity of Aumakua. Often misunderstood and misrepresented, here is an opportunity to get the facts about guardian angels, Hawaiian style.
7 8:30 p.m. "One Voice" Theater: A behind-the-scenes look at the rigors, training and stress to bring the much heralded Kamehameha School Song Competition to reality. Ramsay Taum will introduce this beautiful film.
9 midnight "Celebration After Hours" Alaloa Lounge: Josh Kahula and the contemporary music of 'Nuff Sedd end the first day of The Celebration of the Arts! No cover. Must be 21 years and older. IDs required.
10 11 a.m. "Hularobics" Ambassadors of the Environment entrance: (See Friday).
10 a.m. 4 p.m. "Hands-on Art Demonstrations" throughout the hotel (see Friday).
10 a.m. 4 p.m. "Kiheipili" Hawaiian patchwork quilting Salon 4: (See Friday).
10 a.m. 4 p.m. "Na Aumakua Images" Salon 3: (See Friday).
10 a.m. 4 p.m. "Ka 'olelo makuahine" Hawaiian Garden: (See Friday).
10:30 11:30 a.m. "Dr. George Kanahele Mele Ho'okuku Song Competition" and awards Salon 2: Competing choirs from Hawaii's hospitality industry, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua; The Ilima Hotel and Ka'anapali Beach Hotel vie for coveted trophies for harmony and the accuracy of Hawaiian language. Noelani Mahoe is your hostess.
10:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. Robert Wagstaff art Village Gallery: (See Friday).
11 a.m. 12:15 p.m. "The Green Harvest Tour" Banyan Tree Restaurant: (See Friday)
11:30 a.m. 1:30 p.m. "Earth Day" Ambassadors of the Environment Center: (See Friday)
11:45 a.m. 12:30 p.m. "Hula and Kinolau" Salon 1: Kekoa Wong explains the embodiment of Hawaiian spirits and energies found within the flora, verbiage and movement of hula.
12 4 p.m. "Dive Into Art" Pool Upper Deck: (See Friday)
Noon 4 p.m. "E Inu Ka Awa!" Awa anyone? Salon 4: (See Friday)
12:30 1:15 p.m. "Kohala Kuamo'o, the Race to Save a King" Theater: (See Friday)
1:15 2 p.m. "For the Love of Limu (seaweed)" Salon 2: The Hawaiian delicacy and appreciation of various limu are yours to experience. From medicinal use and spiritual protocol ... to seasoning a seafood dish, limu does it all. Seating is limited. First come ... first served. Charles Ka'upu, Stella Burgess, Janet Kahalekomo and Lanakila Willard challenge your taste buds.
1:15 2 p.m. Hula! Alaloa Lounge lobby entertainment: Ka Pa Hula O Ka Ulu Koa under the direction of Kamaka'eu and Ka'ula Williams.
2 3 p.m. "E Na Aumakua" human blacklight puppet show! Salon 3: (See Friday)
2:30 4:30 p.m. Robert Wagstaff art Village Gallery: (See Friday).
3 4:30 p.m. "Earth Day" Ambassadors of the Environment Center: (See Friday)
3:15 p.m. 4 p.m. "Navigating the Spiritual Paths of the Hawaiian" Salon 2: Kumu Hula Charles Ka'upu and Kumu Hula Kaha'i Topolinski describe the spiritual paths of the Polynesian in comparison to the Western world.
4:15 5 p.m. "Ka Pohaku, ka mana, ka mana'o" Salon 1: Kai Markell displays an array of Hawaiian power stones some shaped by the patience of mankind ... others sculpted by the energies of the spirits! mazed.
6 8:30 p.m. "The Celebration Lu'au and Show" Aloha Garden Ballroom: An outright feast of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, music and hula featuring "Na'au" playing during the meal; kumu hula Charles Ka'upu and the men of "Na Kane O Ke Oneloa" featuring ancient hula; and kumu hula Napua Grieg-Makua and her halau "Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka" toping it off with a sneak preview as she heads to the worlds championships of hula. Advance ticket purchase highly recommended as this is an annual sellout. $90 per adult. $45 per child 5 12 years old.
9 p.m. midnight "Celebration After Hours" Alaloa Lounge: "Kamakakehau and Na Leoiki" jam the night away with traditional "party-style" tunes, impromptu entertainment and guest appearances. No cover. 21 and older, IDs required.
10 a.m. 3 p.m. Easter Sunday Brunch The Terrace Restaurant: $85 per adult. $42.50 per child ages 4 12 years old. Price is exclusive of tax and gratuity. Reservations are necessary.
10:15 a.m. Easter Egg Hunt: The Plantation Lawn: Children up to 12 are invited to bring their Easter baskets and join the Easter Bunny and Aloha Bear to gather eggs for fun and prizes.There will be sections for different age levels. Begins promptly at 10:15.
Schedule of events subject to change