Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea. Transparent Watercolor. Dawn Yoshimura 2019

The debate on whether or not the TMT project should move forward has been fraught with emotion and strong viewpoints. I knew there were protesters regarding the project and was not that informed but in general, not knowing anything, I would have answered anybody asking, that I was for the advancement of science and to put Hawai’i on the map as the premier place for advancement must be a good thing, right?

I had recently been to a conference where I listened (proudly) on how scientists had worked together with Hawaiian cultural consultants to pilot a project on naming celestial objects discovered by Hawaiian telescopes. ʻOumuamua is the first known interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System. Formally designated 1I/2017 U1, it was discovered by Robert Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii, on 19 October 2017, 40 days after it passed its closest point to the Sun on 9 September.

But spending the summer in Sweden, sailing in the archipelago, enjoying the Nordic nature’s beauty, I was following the growing media coverage of the protests and then I listened in to some of the teach ins and facebook live statements. Suddenly it didn’t seem so clear anymore what was good, what was bad, what was respectful of people and nature.

I dreamt of Haleakala while rocking on the boat at night. I dreamt of the Ko’olau which is the mountains of my birth and anchor. I felt like I needed to ask the mountain what she wanted. So I worked on six different paintings that came to me in dreams. I sold one to a collector whose family is from the Big Island. The mountain was immense and timeless. In the morning light, in winter, in spring.

I still don’t have a clear political stance, but as long as whoever treads upon those slopes seeks to leave it with the lightest imprint and to use their choice to climb up there to advance all of us forward, I feel they have her permission. Leaving ‘opala, expelling negativity, neglecting promises of care, it doesn’t matter who it is, the mountain remains. My paintings seek to find the supernatural moments and often it is with no visible footprints so you don’t know if it was yesterday, last year or last century since the last human eyes beheld this view.

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