University of Hawaii Student Proudly Dons Malo While Receiving Diploma


Some students wear dress up clothes under their graduation gowns and then there’s Kalā  Kaawa who proudly wears his malo and isn’t afraid to show it during the ceremony.

Kaawa wore the traditional Hawaiin loincloth under his gown as an ode to his heritage and to remind his peers “not to be ashamed of your culture, whether you are Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan, etc.” He also wanted to send a message that it is important to “know your roots, represent and perpetuate! Not just for yourself, but for your family, your ancestors and the future generations of your culture.”

While sitting through the ceremony, the two time bachelor degree recipient, sent a text to his mother to see what she thought about him disrobing when he was given his diploma. His mother knew that he donned only a malo under his gown and replied with a slight bit of trepidation with a text that read “I don’t know. Think about it.”

Kawaa opted to embrace his decision and took his robe off to display his Hawaiian pride. Fears of any negative responses or repercussions were swiftly put out of Kawaa’s mind as those in attendance rose to their feet and cheered for him until his was back in his seat.

He told The Huffington Post, “I was so touched by the reaction of the crowd that I stood there in complete awe for a while…soaking in the feeling of accomplishment and pride for my culture. It felt really good to be received that way bu such an enormous crowd.”

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