Kumu Pono | Hula | San Francisco

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever read about hula was… Hula is the indigenous expression of a whole culture, in dance and storytelling. Dancing the hula demands dedication, because the ‘ōlapa know that they are messengers of a language older than time.

If you know me at all, you know there are two things that have always been prevalent in my life – Hula & Photography, and I am completely in love with both! There is an unspeakable beauty that I see in hula, in every movement, in every hand gesture, in every gaze of the eyes. It’s something that commands respect. Can you imagine, having the responsibility of telling the history of an entire culture. Sharing a story about their heritage, their traditions, and their beliefs. It’s a huge responsibility that every ‘olapa [hula dancer] and every Kumu Hula [hula teacher] must take seriously and be proud of.


On this particular day, I had the pleasure of photographing my Kumu Hula [at the time], Pono Ka’ahanui. My Kumu and I had discussed having a shoot for the entire halau [hula school] in the upcoming month, but we had decided to have a Kumu only portrait session first because we could also scout locations and see what spot would provide the look and feel he was hoping for. This look needed to incorporate a beach and San Francisco….so we decided to try Baker Beach. I mean come on, you can’t beat that view of Goldie! :) On a very, very cold & foggy Saturday morning I met him at his house in Daly City and we headed out toward the Presidio.

If I could only tell you how much we laughed & laughed as he was trying to discreetly put on his malo! To say it was freeeeeeezing that morning is an understatement! His legs were full on chicken skin hahaha. This was probably because he had to strip down to practically nothing, in order to put it on (good thing Baker is also a nude beach lol). I could hardly hold my camera because I was laughing so hard! Anywho, we managed to get through it (laughs and all) and get his malo properly tied.

The night before, he made adornments (haku, kupe’e, etc) for this mornings shoot. These were used in our first set of photos along with his kālā’au. I must say….these set of photos are by far some of my favorites!! After this set, we took a few more. Some of my favorites are below,

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