"I did all I wanted to do."
"Now we can call on him at any time.
A wheelchair can't come out on a rocky cliff or a crest.
Now we can call on him anywhere."
"I think what I always enjoyed most about seeing Uncle George is, whenever he went into a room, all eyes went on him. That energy, that responsibility he carried, he loved it. He loved that position, yet at the same time he had that mission, that responsibility to carry on the hula. It's really nice, this tiny little man could come in and the entire auditorium would stop. That says a lot about who he is."
Textile designer, Cultural Practitioner, and Kumu Hula.
The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Hawaii Tourism Authority both honored Na'ope with lifetime achievement awards.
"Uncle shared hula with the world.
It was his desire that hula be danced everywhere, and many of our kumu hula today are enjoying the legacy he leaves for all of us. He was a consummate entertainer, and that's what he did for the world, with aloha."
Jacqueline "Skylark" Rosetti
"I felt the hula was becoming too modern and that we have to preserve it. [David] Kalakaua [king of Hawaii 1874-91, aka The Merrie Monarch] brought the hula back to Hawaii and made us realize how important it was for our people. There was nothing here in Hilo, so I decided to honor Kalakaua and have a festival with just hula.
I didn't realize that it was going to turn out to be one of the biggest things in our state."
Uncle George, NEA National Heritage Fellow 2006
"I tell the young people to learn the culture and learn it well, preserve it so their children and their children's children can continue with our culture and that our culture will live forever."
"In later years, Na'ope was known not just as a kumu hula, but as a raconteur, a dapper man decked out in bright clothes and huge rings. A fixture at the festival and its many auxiliary events, he was adored by hula-loving visitors, often seen in a huge peacock-style chair having his picture taken with visitors from Japan.
In latter years, when he crept up the ramp to the Merrie Monarch stage to perform a hula during the finale, the crowd would go wild.
He was called 'The Menehune,' for his small stature, or sometimes "Dandy," a reference to King Kalakaua's hula master Dandy Ioane, also a dapper dresser."
Gordon Y.K. Pang,
When I lived in Kona in the 80's I used to see a dapper old fellow walking down the road. He was decked out in lei, with a flower in his hat, wearing many many Hawaiian bracelets & rings. "That's Uncle George," folks would say with a special tone in their voices.
The State of Hawaii declared him a "Living Golden Treasure" but needn't have. He was already beloved and appreciated in a way that is hard to express in this modern day and time.
He is one of the few slender bridges that brought the cultural treasures of Hawaii's past into the present. At the penultimate moment of the Merrie Monarch Festival (the "Olympics of hula") while the judges tally the results, the tension, exhaustion, and exultation are palpable - even when viewed on TV.
It was at just this moment that Uncle George would take the stage to dance. All eyes were on him, including all of the dancers and kumu waiting to hear their rankings.
There, in the spotlight, our foremost hula expert would begin to dance real Kolohe ("mischievous, naughty, prankster, rascal"). A bit funny, a bit naughty, he always brought a humanity and warmth that touched hearts throughout the world. He had something of the little kid in him.
I last saw Uncle George here in Honolulu in the Spring of 2006 when he was signing inaugural copies of "Humu Mo`olelo - Journal of the Hula Arts" of which he is considered the founder.
It was always permitted to treat him with warmth and familiarity, so I mentioned Kona days and we admired each others jewelry. He signed my journal: "Aloha Cloudia, Uncle George Naope."
Here it sits by my side. The privilege was all mine, Uncle.
Aloha `Oe to a dear & great human being!
And to each of YOU for joining us today. Dance on! cloudia
Here is the link to Burl Burlingame's Honolulu Star Bulletin article: