Patrick Makuakāne

Kumu Hula and Cultural Preservationist Class of 2023
Portrait of Patrick Makuakāne

Blending traditional hula with contemporary music and movements and uplifting Hawaiian culture and history.

location icon Location
San Francisco, California
age iconAge
62 at time of award
website iconWebsite(s)

About Patrick’s Work

Patrick Makuakāne is a kumu hula (master teacher) and cultural preservationist infusing traditional hula with fresh interpretations and establishing new routes for transmitting and preserving Hawaiian cultural heritage. Makuakāne grounds his work in the traditions, ancestral knowledge, and history of Hawaiʻi as it has been passed down to him by other kumu. He has forged his own unique form of hula—hula mua, or hula that evolves—by blending traditional hula movements, chants, and songs with contemporary music, staging, and subject matter.

Since 1985, Makuakāne and his San Francisco-based dance company, Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu, have performed both traditional hula pieces and Makuakāne’s original works in the hula mua style. He often uses English-language lyrics, popular music, and contemporary dress and theatrical staging. His long-form, narrative performances challenge stereotypes and explore past and present-day threats to Native Hawaiian people and culture. The Natives Are Restless (1996) is a history of colonialism in and the present occupation of Hawai’i, including the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and Native Hawaiians’ demand for sovereignty. “Salva Mea,” a frantic, collective dance underscored by progressive house music, depicts the devastation Christian missionaries wrought in the nineteenth century. Makuakāne works to preserve Hawaiian language, history, and culture through both his choreography and hālau (school), which offers classes for adults and children. He was inspired to create Ka Leo Kānaka, The Voice of the People, in 2013 when the hālau participated in a project to digitize Hawaiian-language newspapers. The work sets stories about twentieth-century Hawai’i to various genres of music from throughout the century.

Recently, Makuakāne and his company collaborated with Hawaiian transgender artists to create the full-length work, MĀHŪ (2022). The work explores and celebrates the role of gender fluidity in Hawaiian culture and seeks to restore the honor conferred upon transgender people in ancient Hawaiʻi. By balancing traditional hula with modern innovations, Makuakāne ensures that this vital component of ancestral culture continues to endure and thrive for future generations.


Patrick Makuakāne studied hula with the kumu hula (master teachers) John Keola Lake, Robert Uluwehi Cazimero, and Mae Kamāmalu Klein; under Klein’s tutelage he received the title of kumu hula in 2003. Makuakāne is the director and founder of Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu, a community-centered hula company and cultural organization, since 1985. He also serves as a spiritual and cultural advisor for the Native Hawaiian Religious Spiritual Group at San Quentin State Prison. His company has performed at such venues as Lincoln Center Out of Doors, New York, NY; the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and Yerba Buena Fine Arts Center, San Francisco, CA; and other places throughout California, Hawaiʻi, and New Orleans.

Published on October 4, 2023

Photos of Patrick Makuakāne

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