George Naope

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  From 2006 NEA National Heritage Fellowships:

George Na`ope's full name is George Lanakilakekiahiali`i Na`ope, but throughout the Hawaiian Islands he is known simply as "Uncle George." He is revered for his knowledge and mastery of traditional hula and chant. Born on O`ahu and raised in Hilo, Na`ope began his studies of hula at the age of three under the training of his great grandmother, Mary Malia Pukaokalani Na`ope who lived to be over 100 years old. By the age of 12 he was already performing on recordings of Hawaiian music. Upon graduation from high school, he moved to Honolulu and opened the George Na`ope Hula School.

A lifelong teacher, in 1962 he founded the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. A landmark turning-point in the renaissance of Hawaiian culture, the festival is focused on the traditional chant and dance of the islands.

Recognized by the Governor and Hawai`i State Legislature with the designation "Living Golden Treasure," he has welcomed both President Franklin Roosevelt and President John F. Kennedy to Hawai`i and he more recently represented Hawai`i at the royal wedding of Japan's Emperor Akahito.