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Ancient Hula Type Name
Click to hear the pronunciation
Hula Ki`i (Dance with/as an image)

Further Detail
Hula Ki`i take on many forms. The word "ki`i" in this hula context encompasses everything from a doll or idol, to an image or likeness. Therefore, a Hula Ki`i is one in which dancers either utilize an actual physical image or use their own body to represent the likeness of one. In the former version, the dancer has a variety of choices in trying to represent or symbolize the image - finger puppet, hand puppet, marionette-type ki`i, larger more life-size representations, and everything in between. In the latter version, which, according to Puku`i originated on Kaua`i, dancers attempt to assume the form of the image by posturing their bodies in such a way as to give the impression they are the ki`i. Puku`i writes that Hula Ki`i were commonly performed by small children on Kaua`i after returning from a swim at the beach.

Numerous historical accounts of Hula Ki`i can be found. Detail on this Library's Published Sources references can be found below. There is also a book entitled "Hula Ki`i" which offers in-depth research into this rich class of ancient hula.

Ancient ki`i heads and bodies were made out of a variety of materials, including wood and coconuts. Facial and body detail were provided by such items as shells, kapa, nuts, greens, and natural dyes.

Ki`i were made to be a particular image or character, as determined by the chant. The particular type of ki`i utilized would be influenced by the story being told and the age of the dancer telling the story. A young child might only be able to manage a finger or hand puppet, while an older child or adult dancer could use a larger ki`i. The manner in which Hula Ki`i are danced vary from hula tradition to hula tradition. Regardless of the particulars, this hula type takes dedicated practice to successfully manipulate or imitate the ki`i and to possibly execute hula steps and chant at the same time.

General Body Position: Kü or Noho (Standing or Sitting)
Can be for Game, Pastime, or Sport: Yes
Implement or Instrument: Yes

Published Research Sources

Papa Kuhikuhi (Kaläkaua's Coronation Program)
- In Kaläkaua's extensive Coronation program of over 200 presentations, four Hula Ki`i are listed, as led by Kumu Hula Ehu Keohohina.

Nä Mele Hula volume 1 (Beamer)
- Volume I contains a Hula Ki`i on pages 72-73, "Ke Ha`a Ala Puna." Beamer does not identify it as a Hula Ki`i, but dances it as such. (Click her name below for more.) She provides chant background, full text and translation, and her chant melody.

Unwritten Literature of Hawai`i (Emerson)
- Chapter XI "The Hula Ki`i" gives great detail on specific images - names, the stories associated with them, what they looked like. Ones named are Maile Pakaha, Nihiaumoe, Ki`iki`i, Puapuakea, Makakü, Mailelauli`i, Kü, Kiniki`i, and Ho`oleheleheki`i.

Hula Pahu volume 1 (Kaeppler)
- Page 15, Chapter 1 explains "proper use" of the term "hula ki`i" to be "a dance in which humans imitate the postures of carved images" and provides justification for this meaning. Emerson is criticized for his documentation of early hula accounts.

Hawaiian Dictionary (Puku`i/Elbert)
- "Hula Ki`i" has two definitions. The first notes the variation of Hula Ki`i where the dancer assumes the posture of the ki`i itself. It also means to dance in that way. The second definition describes it as a "dance with marionettes."

Hula: Historical Perspectives (Barrere/Puku`i/Kelly)
- Historical accounts are noted: pg 14 "dance of the marionettes," pg 26 "idol dance," pgs 62-63 (Kamakau's account which notes that Hula Ki`i were among types danced by the chiefs), and pgs 81-82 (background on Kaua`i's Hula Ki`i and a chant example).

Additional Notes
Please see "Published Sources" section above for greater detail on where to find documented research on this Hula Type.

Please also consult the "Kupuna" section at bottom to read and hear what our elders have to share.

Dancer holding hand puppet version of ki`i
Hula Ki`i, 1948, Nona Beamer
Nona Beamer performing Hula Ki`i, 2000

Related Chants
Ke Ha`a Ala Puna (Puna is dancing)

Related Implements/Instruments
Ki`i (Doll or puppet)

Related Küpuna
Beamer, Nona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha
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