By Cynthia Sweeney
SPECIAL TO NHN
Kumu Hula Raylene Ha`alelea Kawaiae`a stood out in a crowd. From her home in Kohala, she traveled the world from Europe, Taiwan, New Zealand and across the United States. Wherever she went, people noticed her. “Who is that?” was not an uncommon response.
Also known as Raylene Lancaster, she demonstrated true Aloha. She radiated pure, unconditional love for everyone. Her long, striking, reddish brown hair that later turned to silver-gray, often created a halo affect around her. Indeed, her mana was so strong, she seemed always connected to her source. Wherever she went, people gravitated towards her, were drawn to her like a magnet, and those in her presence experienced her genuine caring and concern.
Raylene came from a musical family that has roots in California and on Oahu, and from a young age she was encouraged to sing. She became a master of story telling (moolelo). She established her own halau hula in the early 1970s in California, and came to Kohala in 1993. Here, she began teaching Hawaiian culture in the public schools and established a halau hula in North Kohala. She would often talk story about the old Hawaiians, their legends and their stories through chants, and made a recording of “Ku`u Ipo I Ka He`e Pu`e One” for the CD Mele Hula, Hawaiian Melody.
Raylene was a revered kumu hula. She was close with young dancers and taught hula, but mostly what she taught was life, and that hula means living in lokahi (harmony).
“There are many different aspects of hula besides learning dances. Kumu helped us understand the lifestyle of hula and being connected to everything and everyone,” said Randee Golden, a friend and student for 18 years. “She was the most inclusive and gentlest persons I ever met. Her philosophy of life was ‘we are all one.’ It was a very old style Hawaiian way of thinking.”
Raylene’s understanding of her heritage, traditions and cultural practices permeated everything she did.
In Kohala, she began teaching elementary students as a cultural specialist within that district. In the mid 1990s, her first community class was entitled “Your Name as a Prayer”, where she encouraged participants to look at where they came from, who they were, and why they were here.
As a cultural specialist with Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, a social service agency based in Kona benefiting Hawaiian orphaned and destitute children and their families, she shared her experience of aloha, lokahi and pono. She developed close relationships with struggling families and supported youth by helping them to know who they were, making a connection by teaching hula, chant, and everything that encompasses the lifestyle that is hula.
Raylene’s was a familiar face in community cultural events and blessings. In 2001, she was a consultant on the King Kamehameha statue restoration project, which was in many ways a cultural regeneration for the community. Raylene also created a special hula kii (image dance puppetry) for the event.
She served as the Kohala Civic Club President from 1996-2000, and was the Founder and President of Na Huapala O Hawaii, a 501c3 non-profit organization that is the funding arm for the Malama Kukui Cultural Leaning Center.
Raylene was also a practitioner of Hooponopono, the ancient Hawaiian art of reaching agreement and ‘making right.’ She shared the process of this Hawaiian spiritual healing practice in workshops and classes throughout the community.
In 2007, Kumu Raylene was chosen as one of 10 native Hawaiians invited to a private audience with the Dalai Lama in Maui.
Raylene passed away March 9 in a one-car accident on Kohala Mountain Road. She was 61. Raylene is survived by her mother and father, two siblings, five hanau (birth) children, two hanai (adopted) children, 10 moopuna (grandchildren), and many more who called her an adoptive mother.
“She stood in Aloha,” Golden said. “She was a master teacher walking on earth. Hopefully her passing inspires all who knew her to encompass her teachings into their life.”