Art as social activism and community building

Kānehūnāmoku: the Hidden Face of Kāne exhibit at Honolulu Hale of my watercolors and Jan Becketʻs photographs

The show Kānehūnāmoku closed in June 30th at Honolulu Hale while I was still in Sweden for the summer. The main floor was filled with images of wahipana that my colleague Jan Becket, cultural photographer with MOCA the Mayorʻs Office of Culture and the Arts and Koa Ike Foundation worked together to present this exhibit to raise awareness and appreciation for the wahipana of the West coast of Oʻahu. We focused on the landscapes from Maraea at Pokaʻi Bay in Waiʻanae out to Kaʻena Point.

It was a challenging, intense and enriching experience that really opened my eyes to this part of the island. It is my wish that the ʻohana of the westside get to tell their stories and that we, those who call Oʻahu home and visitors, gain both knowledge and appreciation for the unique cultural and natural landscape. Kumu Kilaʻs vision is of the area to be set aside as a World Heritage Site. It would be wonderful to come and picnic at the lāhui platform of the temple of Kulaʻilio at Maraea overlooking the bay and feel the cool breeze coming in from the sea while we can see dolphins frolicking outside the bay while honu and manta rays cruise inside. To stop at Makua cave and walk into that cool cathedral of lava and contemplate and say a prayer of thanksgiving for our parents and all they have given us. To bathe at Keawaula and as the light dips low to grill a dinner together with friends in easy company.

The zoom artist talk went well with about 50 people calling in for the one hour talk. There was a light and easy spirit where people were eager, excited, curious and attentive to listen to all who spoke. We listened to Kumu Glen Kila and Christopher Oliveira from Marae Haʻa Koa talk about his vision and Jan and I shared our process in creating the imagery.

Art can be something to decorate, adorn, entertain, amuse. It can be deeply personal to the artist/maker. It can be used as a tool in political agendas. But it can also be a part of the community it is created in and for, not something outside as an observer and merely documentary in purpose and form, but when it is created and shared with the community, the practice becomes part of the efforts of community building and caring for its people, the land and the history.

I look for projects where the intersection of my personal values, history and relationships can meet and this has been the most rewarding project to date. I was honored to meet so many generous people, which gives me great optimism that this project will be successful to help raise the right spirit to mālama this area of my home.