ʻUlupalakua’s Ancient Cypress “Hula Circle” Reinvented
Vanessa Wolf is a Maui-based writer who has been asked to stop mentioning she is Maui-based or a writer because these things are obvious. Vanessa Wolf is someone who (occasionally. regrettably. charmingly?) states the obvious.
By Vanessa Wolf
Last March, Pakaʻa, the Hawaiian god of wind, decided to do some redecorating.
In his wake, he felled two ancient Cyprus trees that had once graced the entrance of Maui’s Winery/Tedeschi Vineyards in ʻUlupalakua.
Those trees had been part of a ring planted almost 150 years earlier and which had become known as the Hula Circle. It was there that King David Kalākaua – the last king of Hawaiʻi – would sit and watch his hula dancers perform.
Hula had been banned in 1830 by Queen Kaʻahumanu after her conversion to Christianity, but Kalākaua revived it. He also wrote Hawaiʻi Ponoʻi, which remains the state song of Hawaiʻi to this day. King Kalākaua earned the nickname “the Merrie Monarch,” because of his love of the simple pleasures in life.
“The devastation of the two trees—one lifted right out of the ground, roots and all, and the other snapped four feet up—was deeply saddening at first,” said Paula Hegele, winery president. “But when analysis revealed the broken tree was rotted inside, for safety reasons it was clear that the remaining trees in the circle would have to go.”
“After the initial shock, we realized this loss could evolve into something meaningful and lasting,” Hegele noted. “We wanted to find a way to represent the circle’s significance and communicate the past almost more clearly than the actual trees had done.”
Enter award-winning Maui sculptor Tim Garcia, who was commissioned to carve the remaining 8and 9-foot stumps into something that will persevere for the next 150 years.
We asked Garcia a few questions about this undertaking.
Maui Now: What inspired you specifically as you carved this wood into its new form?
Tim Garcia: The inspiration came from the history of trees, the sense of place they hold, and the love I have for Hawaiʻi, the culture, and its people.
MN: What do you hope visitors to the hula circle in its new form will take away/experience?
TG: A sense or understanding of the history of Hawaiʻi, it’s amazing culture, and the fact that 150 years ago, chants and dance were taking place here in this amazing circle of trees.
MN: If we could have given you one more piece of wood to do a final sculpture of your own inspiration/personality/history, what might it have looked like?
TG: Good question. I will be bringing three pieces with me to the blessing that I carved over the last few weeks, so you can see what I’m doing now. The series is titled “Looking East,” as I feel my work is taking on a Japanese or Eastern simplicity in the lines and a love of the wood in all its imperfections…and yes, I hope you can see them.
The remaining wood from the 145-foot tall trees was milled onsite at the ʻUlupalakua Ranch. It will be utilized for fencing at the ranch itself, keeping the trees at home in a way.
“The trees represented more than history—they also embodied the hospitality of ʻUlupalakua,” Hegele says. “Here, the ancient art of hula was once again performed and enjoyed. They danced! It’s one of the things that have made ʻUlupalakua special to many kumu hula.”
Visitors to the winery can experience Garcia’s envisioned Hula Circle as they approach the King’s Cottage Tasting Room.
The official blessing and unveiling is this afternoon as part of the “Ulupalakua Sparkles” event. The artist will be on hand, along with the three sculptures of his own personal creation. Otherwise – with any luck – Garcia’s work will be available for the next few centuries’ of visitors to experience and enjoy.
Are you a local artist – sculptor, poet, mime, slack key guitar player, tattoo artist, photographer, pastry chef, performance artist, sand castle builder or comedian – with an interesting story to tell? Know of a great band, artist, author, filmmaker, or event coming to town? Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (@mauinow.com)