Kānehūnāmoku: The hidden face of Kāne

Nā pohaku ʻo Kaʻena. Original watercolor 12x16in. Copyright Dawn Yoshimura

This has been a long time in the making, but as Kumu Glen Kila says, timing is divine and to be trusted and accepted. Kānehunāmoku: The Hidden Land of Kane is a collaboration between cultural photographer Jan Beckett, Kumu Glen Kila and the Koa ʻIke Foundation.

This started for me with my project Wahipana, where I first met the Kila ohana and organisation with the question I had: What would happen to artistsʻ process and perception if they were given moʻolelo about specific wahipana? Would it affect their work? And if so, how? It was a collaborative project supported by many generous Hawaiian cultural practitioners, historians, and, artists. Some thought I was doing it to start a new art event, but it wasnʻt commercial, it was the start of my journey to understand my connection to the ʻaina as a kamaʻaina but not ethnic Hawaiian and artist.

This show, is exploring two perspectives, and media of the same wahipana that Jan and I both feel deeply protective of. To this end, Koa ʻIke Foundation is our sponsor for the project, not financially, but as a cultural resource and connection to their land, their stories, their knowledge. We all share a vision of preserving and protecting this area of the West coast of Oʻahu for its unique landscapes, history and site of historical and ongoing cultural practice. The goal of this exhibit is to raise awareness and appreciation for this area.

Kānehūnāmoku: The Hidden Face of Kāne for me is about looking at the hidden, unnoticed, neglected, forgotten landscapes of the West. Some things are hidden because they are not understood, others are hidden intentionally by the person who has the knowledge to protect their charge. God reminded his people to talk about their history, tell their stories to their children, so they would know their God and have courage to keep his ways and be his people. Warnings not to move boundary stones and to keep the memorials and festivals were set in place by previous ancestors to give us wayfinding markers. But over time, these stories can be forgotten.

What is chosen to be revealed to family members, oneʻs community or the world, is not an easy thing, so I am grateful to be included in helping preserve and protect some of the Kānuhūnāmoku history, in so much as I can, through sharing pictures. It is what I have to give. My family always said you needed to know who you were, where you came from, to be grounded and able to face the future. However, even they did not tell me all the stories of who we are as a people. They didnʻt know about the concentration camps in Hawaii. Nobody told them. Without knowing who we are, it is harder to see and grasp with confidence our shared humanity, created in the image of God. Michelangelo looked to the Greeks and Romans for his history, but I am looking even further, as an artist, to the ancient art made by our common ancestors thousands of years ago. Nature as a book of revelation is crucial to my understanding of the world, who we are, how we got here. So, observation of nature, and listening to stories come together in my art through the lens and limits of my own abilities and understanding.

Preparing for this show has been a challenging one, to keep true to our common vision and my creative process. I like to do 2 versions of an idea or place, sometimes it can be more. The previous extended series, Color Bridge from 2014-2016 totalled 47 pieces. This project resulted in 27 paintings. Both series required me to prayerfully be open to see and respond appropriately to each wahipana. It required patience and not freaking out due to time, weather, materials, etc not being quite what I had planned or imagined, but to, instead be accepting of and responsive to the images and impressions I was receiving.

This show is on view at Honolulu Hale May 18-June 30 2022 open 7:45-4:30pm Mondays-Saturdays at 530 S. King Street, Honolulu Hawaii.

I hope you will see the show, and please comment on my instagram or tag with #dawnyoshimurastudio or #kanehunamoku to share which ones caught your eye and imagination. Mahalo kēia huiʻana.