About George Naope

George Lanakilakeikiahialii Naope

Uncle George was a respected and beloved Kumu Hula and Hawaiian cultural advocate. He was born in Kalihi, Oʻahu, and raised in Keaukaha, Hawaiʻi where his family's history is firmly rooted. His grandfather, Harry Naope Sr., was a music teacher, composer, and choral master at Haili Church in Hilo. At age 3, his life in hula and the culture began as he lived with his great-grandmother, Malia Pukaokalani Naope, who instilled in him the importance of learning Hawaiian ways and being proud to be Hawaiian. She sent him to study with their neighbor, her good friend, "Mama Fuji" (Mary Ahiena Kekuewa), who planted even stronger roots in him. 

His next Hawaiʻi Island teacher was Joseph Ilalaole in Puna, where he blossomed as a dancer.  He went on to study with other renowned masters, including Iolani Luahine, Lokalia Montgomery, Antone Kaoo, Annie Hall, Jennie Wilson, and Tom Hiona.  His immense and diverse talents in hula, music, singing, and chant were recognized at a young age, and he spent part of his teenage years touring the United States with showman, singer, and bandleader, Ray Kinney, before going on to become a recognized face in the local entertainment industry. 

Following high school, Uncle established the George Naope Hula School where he taught hula kahiko, or traditional dance, during a time when this was not commonplace.  In 1964, he founded the Merrie Monarch Festival, initially to help boost the economic prosperity of Hilo (as the whaling festival had done for Lahaina).  But, for Uncle George, it would also serve as a means to help preserve and perpetuate Hawaiian culture and history, and specifically his beloved dance of Hawaiʻi, the hula.

Over the years, he garnered many awards for his work in hula and the community, including the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the I Ola Mau Ka Hula Award, and a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement recognition.  Uncle was also designated as a Living Treasure of Hawaiʻi by the Honpa Hongwanji in 2007.  

Revered for his knowledge and mastery of traditional hula and chant, Uncle George shared his beloved culture, passion for hula, and pride in his people throughout Hawaiʻi and the world.  At HPS, we were honored to have the opportunity to work with him in his twilight years.


External Resources
University of Hawaii - Manoa: Hawaiian Music Collection - NAOPE, GEORGE, Performer Biography

George Naope, Kumu Hula (Hula Master), 2006 NEA National Heritage Fellow - National Endowment for The Arts Heritage Fellow

George Naope, Master of Sacred Hula, Dies at 81 - New York Times

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