Merrie Monarch Festival: The Royal Court
The perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and traditions are evident throughout Merrie Monarch week each year.
More important than just its visual impact, the Royal Court plays a vital role in the festival.
“King Kalakaua brought hula not just back to life, but also returned it to the people,” said U’ilani Peralto, the coordinator of the Royal Court. It is because of him that it still exists today. The Royal Court represents the revitalization of hula.”
There is no official application to fill out to be a part of the Royal Court.
The selection of Royal Court members always begins with finding the mo‘i kane (king) first. Once the mo‘i kane is selected, the search for a mo‘i wahine begins.
The mo‘i kane and mo‘i wahine represent King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. They are roles that are not taken lightly by those who have the honor to be a part of the Royal Court.
When looking for a mo‘i wahine, Peralto said it is important to find someone that complements the looks of the king and his stature.
This year’s ali‘i happen to be husband and wife—Eli-Lucas Ku‘ikahilike Kipili‘i and Lokelani Ku‘uipo Kaili Kipili’i. The once junior high school sweethearts and have now been married for 11 years. They are both avid movie buffs, enjoy trying new restaurants and foods and love spending time with their ‘ohana. They consider their greatest blessings their daughters Grace-Makena and Hope-Anuhea.
This year’s court features the role of kamali‘i wahine Ka‘iulani (Young Princess Kai’ulani)—a role that the Royal Court had not included for over 20 years, according to George DeMello, a volunteer who helps with organizing the court.
When asked about her role as Ka‘iulani, Jodenella Alameda said, “I always wanted to be a princess, but this is more important than just dressing up as a princess. I am nervous, but excited to be able to be a part of it.”
Backstage in the dressing room, replica era dresses, coats and accessories hang on racks or sit in boxes—everything needed to turn everyday people into the images that would meet the approval of Hawai‘i’s last reigning monarchy.
The royal court will make five appearances throughout the week-long hula festival in Hilo.