The Language of Aloha
“Hula raised me,” says Brandy Serikaku, a native Hawaiian hula dancer, surfer, artist and designer, and passionate ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (spoken Hawaiian language) advocate. “I belonged to this hālau, to this family, and they showed me the world. Hula really is the beginning of everything for me. It’s how I got into Hawaiian language and how I was able to travel.”
Raised in Hilo, Brandy was fortunate to grow up in a supportive community with strong roots to Hawaiian culture. Dancing at the hālau under the watchful eye of her kumu and the aunties that helped out, Brandy’s education went far beyond memorizing dance routines for performances. Hula was a direct connection to Brandy’s culture, her ancestors, and to the ‘āina. The Hawaiian songs and chants introduced her to important people in Hawaiian history, the native flora, fauna and marine life, and the beautiful places in Hawai‘i with stories all their own. She learned aloha, how to live aloha, how to conduct herself in life with humility, love and selfless sharing for the greater good of the community. Even more, hula was her gateway to the Hawaiian language, and in turn, a direct connection to her cultural heritage.
Brandy is admittedly and proudly a product of the ‘āina, hula, her family and her extended ‘ohana. Now, a mother to three beautiful daughters, Brandy enjoys all the ways her communities intersect in a small town like Hilo. Whether running into hula friends while surfing Honoli‘i or catching up with other parents from her daughters’ Hawaiian language immersion school, everyone is supporting each other the best they can, sharing food, positivity, and aloha as they work together to stay safe and help the kūpuna in the community.
“My dad was a farmer. He loved that relationship and I saw how he benefited from the land and how it took care of us,” Brandy says. “I felt like pursuing ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i would strengthen my connection to the land and understanding of my environment. As a Hawaiian, when I had my daughters, it gave me a different perspective, a sense of ownership and responsibility to the land. I wanted to share Hawaiian language, so they could have the knowledge. With ‘olelo, they can dive into those old vessels of knowledge and make their own connections.”
Brandy is perpetually happy. She laughs when she talks. She smiles when she’s thinking. Her positive outlook and the warmth of her aloha is infectious. “My role in the community is a Hawaiian, because of the perspective I have through my ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, the way I do things with intent, and the idea of giving back and reciprocity,” Brandy says.
Brandy takes that uplifting passion for life and community and combines it with her traditional knowledge of Hawai‘i’s natural world to create beautiful place-based art that tells stories with images and symbols and sings songs with color. She’s designed prints with Sig Zane, one of the Aloha State’s most respected Native Hawaiian fashion designers, and painted murals that tell the story of the ‘ōhi‘a lehua blossom.
“I’ve been into place names and rain names, lately,” Brandy says, sharing what she’s been up to lately creatively. “In Hawaiian language, one word can mean so many things. That’s the creative challenge I love—interpreting the meanings into visual pieces. I’ve been really inspired by kanilehua, that’s the rain of Hilo. It’s also the name of the hālau that I dance for, so I have a relationship with that name. The murals I’ve done in Hilo represent that name, as well as the design work I’ve done for OluKai.”
For Brandy, living aloha is the foundation of her perspective and life’s work. “I want everyone to have this lifestyle, being conscious and thinking about every action we do and how that affects the next generation and honors our kūpuna. Hawai‘i is so unique, but you can still have that intent and lifestyle at home, wherever that is, and that connection should be important because it’s feeding you, spiritually, mentally, and physically.”