The first time I saw hula performed I was standing under the enormous banyan tree shading the front yard of the old courthouse in Lahaina, watching dozens of traditional hula artists and students perform.

I wept.

Watching traditional hula was like getting hooked up to an IV drip feed direct from nature herself. The beauty, the grace, the power of it touched my soul. Which is why—now that the three-year Covid-driven hiatus on lessons is over—I have just started taking hula classes from a wonderful kumu (teacher), a woman from a long hula lineage on the island.

I was so excited arriving at the halau last week for my first lesson! And then … as I walked in the door, to my utter dismay, I saw that everyone was masked—kumu, students, even someone’s three-year-old daughter. The masks, of course, were required so students wouldn’t spread the dread covid virus, and threaten the lives of everyone in the room.

Of course, if effectively stopping the spread of respiratory illnesses is what masks actually do, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Thing is, they don’t. Even Anthony Fauci admitted it. (Check out the CBS video…

There are dozens of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and studies pointing out the relative worthlessness of masks. Similarly, there are dozens of RCTs stating that masks are effective.  But this is not a commentary on masks. What I really want to discuss here is injury to the spirit.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the image I have posted here, just as there was something fundamentally wrong in the halau last week.

Hula is life itself. The idea of dancing hula in a mask is eha—hurtful—to my pu’uwai … my heart. On a subconscious level it is hurtful to everyone’s heart.

We are beings of pure love—outrageous eternal forces of nature, each and every one of us, from the youngest child to the most ancient elder. We are here on this Earth to express LIFE.

And yet there is a suppressive force on this planet that wants us limited and controlled, small and frightened, muffled and silent.

An influence that has become highly visible in recent years.

I have wrestled with this subject all week, trying to find a living, breathing way of discussing the matter without coming on as argumentative and self-righteous. After all, every individual has the right to personal choice. Right?

If my kumu only feels safe wearing a mask, she has the absolute right to ask others coming into her halau to also wear masks. As a student, I have the right to either agree or stay away.

Thing is, how can anyone have real choice when knowledge is being forbidden?

When there is no such thing as free speech and the open exchange of scientific/medical knowledge on mainstream media platforms, how can people make informed decisions?

How can people have a choice when 90 percent of all global media is owned by the same corporations that own the big pharmaceutical companies? How can people have a choice when Big Pharma pays for the research and clinical trials they use as “proof” of safety and effectiveness of their products? How can people have a choice when Big Pharma pays the doctors we trust to prescribe those products?

How many regular people are willing and able to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours digging for research and medical sources in order to become adequately informed to make proper health decisions for themselves and their family?

This lack of choice, this lack of freedom, this deadening of the mind hurts my spirit—everyone’s spirit—as much as the masks themselves … which are growing default symbols of ignorance, fear, and control.

I look at my kumu—such a beautiful spirit, struggling to speak and teach about traditional hula from behind her mask, her face, expression, smile, her sweetness, exaltation and joy, hidden from view—and I remember watching the “missionary hula” dancers performing in Lahaina that day.

Gone were the green rustling skirts of Ti leaves and leis of flowers. Gone was all sight of bare limbs and glistening skin. Gone was the evocative sway of pelvic movements. Dressed in identical white missionary dresses with high collars and long sleeves, heavy cloth draped down to the ground hiding any view of rhythmic knees and the delicate nuanced movements of the feet—this was hula as deemed proper by Protestant and Catholic ministers and priests in the 1800s before it was banned altogether.

Today hula is not banned. Like life itself, it’s just muzzled.