Shaka, A Story of Aloha is a full-length documentary about the origin and meanings of the Shaka gesture, currently recognized in Hawaii and around the world. The film features an award-winning team of production artists including Henry Kapono as Music Director and Robert ‘Lono’ Ikuwa as Cultural Expert. Produced by Steve Sue, Chairman of Bizgenics, a Hawaii-based nonprofit organization specializing in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship programs, the film is a call to serve one’s community through positivity and sharing the aloha spirit.
The film explores multiple versions of how the Shaka gesture came about, how it progressed to global use, the origin of the word, and how it has been used to share the aloha spirit. Kapono said, “This project is going to connect everyone. The music in the movie is uplifting, the message is great, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Sue explained, “The story started as a passing curiosity when a friend introduced me to kupuna (elders) who, as keiki (children) in the 1930s and 1940s, knew the Shaka Man, Hamana Kalili, known as the father of the Shaka sign. Kalili lost three middle fingers on one of his hands. How he lost the fingers is a subject of local legend. However, when he waved to people he held up the hand that had only a thumb and pinky finger. The wave caught on, was soon adopted by others, and the rest is history!”
While the above storyline is well-documented, alternative origin stories abound, including a Maui-based version that centers around David ‘Lippy’ Espinda. There is also a Molokai-based Kalaupapa leprosy colony version, and a Portuguese drinking gesture version. As documentarians, the crew presents all credible findings so audiences can decide for themselves.
Sue added, “In the end, we may never prove the actual historical origin, but what seems clear is that the Shaka originated in Hawaii and carries the aloha spirit to the world. And today, more than ever, the world needs love, optimism, tolerance, and living with aloha. We’re honored to be entrusted with this story of the Shaka attitude of Aloha.”
The film has spawned several Project Shaka initiatives, including Shaka-based education, scholarship, and sharing-aloha programs. Steve Sue, Bizgenics Chairman, Shaka Executive Producer