Photographer Shuzo Uemoto captures the essence of Hawaii’s kumu hula

Portraits appear in books about the history of hula

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The 44th Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition kicks off July 25. To celebrate, HI Now is highlighting stories about the event, sponsored by The Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Society. The organization has published two important books about the history of hula. HI Now host Jobeth Devera sits down with Guy Sibilla and photographer Shuzo Uemoto who took portraits of dancers and kumu hula in those books.

While taking the portraits of kumu hula, Uemoto asked, “What was it to be Hawaiian?” He wanted to portray each with the dignity their status demanded.

Uemoto has been in Hawaii since 1953. Self-taught, his interest in photography began while in college. Throughout the years, he has developed an admirable mastery of the medium through trial and practice. He is respected as a photographer of exacting and timeless portraiture, who can capture and distill a myriad of nuances and moods. His portraiture is known for its cultural and spiritual sensitivities. He is also a dedicated experimenter whose focus is on unconventional photographic printmaking methods.

He has exhibited his works in exhibitions of local, regional, national and international importance including: Hawaii and the continental United States, France and Japan. His work is included in private collections as well as the Honolulu Museum of Arts and The Hawaii State Foundation on the Culture and the Arts. His published works are in Contemporary Photographers of Hawaii, 1985, Collective Visions, SFCA; American Photographer, 1981- 87; Nana I Na Loea Hula Vol. I & II; Lessons of Aloha with Brother Noland 1999.

About Keiki Hula:
On September 11, 1976, the Kalihi-Palama Culture & Arts Society, Inc. organized a festival to honor Hawai’i’s last reigning monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani. The day-long event was held at A’ala Park and featured multi-ethnic dance performances, Hawaiian crafts demonstrations, a pageant of Hawai’i’s mo’i wahine, and the first keiki hula competition.

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