John Wilbert Edmond Keanuenue Ka’imikaua (1958-2006) was a profound chanter, artist, storyteller, historian, writer, and well known Kumu Hula.
Ka’imikaua shared with others on many occasions the story of the single event that changed his life and put him on the path to becoming a kumu hula. From the age of 5, he had an interest in Hawaiian culture and hula, said his wife. But it wasn't until he was 14 and met a woman known only as Kawahinekapuheleikapokane that he gained the knowledge of the old ways, which he would use for the rest of his life.
The 92-year-old Hawaiian woman shared with Kaimikaua 156 Moloka'i chants chronicling the history of the island where his own family had once lived. Kawahinekapuheleikapokane told Kaʻimikaua she was a descendent of a priestly kahuna line. After her passing he utilized his talents and the knowledge he acquired and started Halau Hula O Kukunaokala on November 18, 1977 at age 19, for the purpose of teaching the undocumented, pre-western traditions of early Moloka’i through the ancient practice of chant, dance and oral history. In January 1998, an extension to the halau (dance academy), Halau Hula O Kukunaokala I Moloka’i was established as an educational organization for men within the community of Moloka’i.
Ka’imikaua was also well-known as the founder of the annual Moloka'i Ka Hula Piko festival and for his belief that hula originated on the island of Moloka’i, citing a hula genealogy dating back more than 1,000 years, passed down to him by Kawahinekapuheleikapokane.
John had many projects and dreams, many of which came into reality working with the community of Moloka’i and people in the Hawaiian community throughout the islands as well as those abroad. He retold and revived the stories, names and history to numerous sites on Moloka’i. With help of community members, he assisted in the re-establishment of the Ka Moloka’i Makahiki Festival. John promoted the reforestation projects of Pu’u Nana and Lanikaula, where members in the community continue this lifelong activity. Through the efforts of both halau’s, John was instrumental towards the construction and completion of the Pā Hula on Ka’ana. He has participated and advised many other significant cultural events throughout Hawai’i. His knowledge continues to be a beacon of light for Hawaiians today.
As a songwriter he wrote many beautiful songs and in 1997, John released a recording of some of his original songs on a compact disc titled “Mai Ka Na’au Kuhohonu” to commemorate the 20 years existence of Halau Hula O Kukunaokala.
John viewed the hula as a vehicle to educate and enlighten all people about our ancestors through the early traditions of Hawaiian chant and dance. His objective with hula and the culture was to edify the cohesiveness of mind, body and spirit with ke Akua, nā kupuna and the ‘āina. In his words, “the ancient chant and dance is sacred, the very words chanted from the mouths of our ancestors were purposely preserved by them in the ‘oli and mele for our time. The very movements and actions of our ancestors, who lived upon the land from the beginning of time, are preserved in the movements of the hula. The ancient chant and dance connects us to our ancestors and allows us to feel and to understand the life that they lived.”
Ka’imikaua taught at Leeward Community College, the University of Hawai'i, and Hawai'i Pacific University. He lectured extensively on hula and Hawaiian culture around the world.