She was born Margaret Maiki Souza on May 28, 1925 in Honolulu, the daughter of Peter Charles Souza and Cecilia Pai‘ohe Gilman Souza.
Hānai (adopted) to her maternal grandaunt Cecilia Rose Mahoe and John William Kealoha, she grew up in Palolo Valley (she considered them her grandparents.) (Chun; Carnes)
She was educated at St Francis Convent School and lived with the sisters. She later lived with another grandaunt, Helen Pamaieulu Ha‘o Correa (her Tutu,) in Pauoa Valley.
She turned to hula at about the age of 14 or 15.
“Hula of the day of the kings was just a memory to some of the old timers. The old hula lived only in the talent of a few masters. Fortunately, these were training a small number in spite of the odds against their every putting their learning to good use.” (Lake; Advertiser; Chun; Carnes)
She was trained in a full range of the ancient and traditional hula. In 1943, at the age of 18, she graduated (‘uniki) as an ‘olapa (dancer.)
For 8-years she entertained at the Club Pago Pago (now the site of the Japanese Cultural Center on Beretania) – and continued to study, learn dances and seek mentorship for several hula masters. She later married Boniface Aiu.
A devout Christian, she encountered difficulty on practicing traditional rituals and prayers to Laka, the goddess of hula. Her Tutu helped her reconcile the Christian and Hawaiian beliefs and practices and was able to find peace with ancient practices and her own Christianity. Weeks)
She was also studying to become a nurse. But with the encouragement from others, she began to teach hula to the Hawaiian Society at Blessed Sacrament Church. They gave performances at the church and elsewhere.
She formed Margaret Aiu’s Hula Studio. Her students learned Hawaiian genealogies, culture, mannerisms, legends, poetry and the ‘beauties of our own Hawai‘i.’ (Ariyoshi; Chun: Carnes)
The demand for instruction increased. She employed a new teaching style that departed from traditional recital and memorization and incorporated written references, with a blackboard in the studio and student testing.
“She was a successful teacher and many of her graduates went on the become noted kumu hula. She coined the phrase ‘hula is life,’ the concept of ‘hula brothers and sisters,’ and the practice of keeping hula books: writing down motions, lyrics and notes on each hula. … She was as innovative as she was traditional.” (Weeks)
“She really brought back the love and respect for hula and the interest in learning, lei making, costuming, research, history, language and methodology. She was acknowledged by many people as a hula academic responsible for the modern renaissance of hula.” (Daughter Coline Aiu; Chun: Carnes)
In 1952, she received permission from her teachers to change the name of her dance studio to Hālau Hula O Maiki. (However a sign painter reversed some of the wording to read ‘Hula Hālau O Maiki.’)
She later married Haywood Kahauanu Lake, a noted singer, arranger and song-writer, with whom she performed.
She kept it, however in 1974 the studio moved and the sign was corrected. During that year, she was employed by Paradise Park in Mānoa Valley to supervise all their Hawaiian cultural activities.
She held regular, ongoing classes for dancers at all levels, from young to old and from beginner to advanced, with hundreds of students enrolled at any time in different classes.
She welcomed any who were interested in the dance, regardless of age, race, background, or ability, encouraging each student to experience “the art of Hawaiian dance, expressing all that we see, hear, smell, touch, taste and feel.” (Nogelmeier)
After twenty years of teaching in her hālau, Maiki advertised a special class for kumu hula in 1972, apparently the first time such an opportunity had been offered publicly.
Some were critical about the appropriateness of such an open invitation, but the kumu class attracted a large group of high-caliber students, intensely dedicated to the hula and motivated to undergo the rigors of traditional training.
The Papa Lehua, with a graduating class of twenty-six, was the first of many groups of kumu to eventually emerge from Maiki’s “hula university,” as some called it. (Nogelmeier)
Every subsequent kumu class, each named for one of the plant forms in the hula, produced more new kumu hula, all having been trained in the art of the dance and in Maiki’s particular style of instruction. (Nogelmeier)
Recognized as the ‘Mother of Hawaiian Renaissance,’ she graduated 42 first-generation kumu hula, who in turn have graduated 34 second-generation ‘grandchildren.’ (Cazimero)
The list of graduates of Hālau Hula O Maiki includes may of Hawai‘i’s prominent entertainers and kumu hula.
Maiki could be a tough teacher, scolding, cajoling, explaining. “She was all those things, depending on what she had to be. When you were her student, you were also her child; she was your mother.” (Chang; Enomoto, Star Bulletin)
“When we had problems, many went to her before their own parents; that’s how tight the bond was. If she felt we needed to be scolded, she scolded us unmercifully. And it wasn’t privately like a counselor; it was in front of the family. Boom! Right between eyes.”
“Sometimes I left class drained physically, sometimes absolutely drained emotionally; that’s what Maiki did. And, like in any Hawaiian family, she had her favorites, her punahele.” (Chang; Enomoto, Star Bulletin)
The three symbolic virtues of faith, hope and love were the guiding principles of Lake’s life. “Embracing these values, the devoted kumu hula overcame personal and professional challenges to establish her dream, a dance academy built on classic Hawaiian traditions and practice.
Lake not only was a forerunner, she also was a conduit through which the mastery of ‘Iolani Luahine, Mary Kawena Pukui and Lokalia Montgomery was passed on. (Sunderland; Midweek)
Margaret Maiki Aiu Souza Lake died on June 19, 1984 at the age of 59. “Maiki left a legacy of the place of the hālau in the imparting of the whole art and tradition of learning the hula.”
“The place of beginning to learn is not on the dance floor but before the altar, where the offerings are put in place, and where the student comes into the presence of spiritual love and power.” (Ariyoshi)
“Through the Hula we are endowed with great Heritage.” (Aiu) We “are reminded of how special her legacy has become to all who know and learn to dance the hula. This is why hula is life.” (Ariyoshi)
Here is more on Maiki:
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Lisa @ Casa Bouquet says
Mahalo for this important story, Peter!
What a great read! Thank you! My Mother, Peggy Lou Mililani Fernandez was one of Kumu Maiki’s many students in the late 60’s early 70’s. If any one has any old pictures from that time, please post! Thank you!