Monday, August 31, 2009

Yay...I want to paint

After three weeks of not really being inspired or motivated to paint, I have finally "felt" like getting back into it. I'm pretty sure it has been because I haven't been feeling up to par and just lacked the enthusiasm. From time to time; however, the fog lifted enough from my brain to be able to blog.

I have three wonderful grandchildren who will indulge me by letting me take their pictures with the intent of getting a shot that would be perfect to paint. My oldest grandson Kalani (the heaven) is now in college...OMG where has the time gone!! The other two still at home are Kai (ocean) who is eight and Kiana (Hawaiian for Diana) is four. I love their Hawaiian names so I will be using them here. Needless to say, I must have hundreds of photos of them that I think would make wonderful paintings.

Spending the day with my two younger grandchildren a while back, I caught my 8-year old grandson in this great pose. Not a staged shot...just him being engrossed watching TV. I loved his expression and demeanor. He was totally oblivious to the fact that he was being photographed. Kai is a warm, lovable child who loves giving and receiving hugs. I live in an apartment which is an add-on to the main house and he almost always will come by on the way to do his chores to say "good morning Tutu." Kiana is a pistol. Smart beyond her years and has been conversing fluently since she was two, or maybe even earlier. It seems like she has always been speaking in sentences. She is the princess, a beauty with a mind of her own and a strong will. She comes to visit me frequently. Will on many occasions sneak in and try to scare me...she'll accomplish that on every try. I have a photo of her which I will be painting at a later time. I've painted each of them before and will probably continue to use them as subjects.

My mo'opuna (grandchildren) are God's reward. I'm sure all you grandparents out there feel just as I do. A thought I just had...if a woman thought about having children and the responsibilities it entails...playing such a huge role in the outcome of a person's life...we may think twice about becoming a mother. However, on the other side of the coin...with good, nurturing parenting we are rewarded with grandchildren. Hmmmm...come to think of it, for some, even without good, nurturing parenting we are still rewarded with grandchildren. I love being a grandmother.

Anyhow, this project will keep me busy for a while. I will post my progress at major steps. Right now, I am contemplating...OK, where do I start?

More later.

Friday, August 28, 2009

HA - The Breath

Have you ever wondered what the name Hawai'i meant? Let me translate literally for you.
HA - the Breath; WAI - the water (fresh water); I - God
Therefore, the Breath and Water of God

A visual; the breath of God constantly and gently bathe the islands in tradewinds as He all the while provides life-sustaining rains and surrounding oceans and rivers filled with nourishment for the people of this land since the beginning of time.

From this translation we come to the word "haole." Ha - breath, ole - not, without, lacking; therefore, no breath. It is a word used to describe the foreigner by the natives in the early days of the arrival of explorers such as Captain Cook and the coming of the missionaries. The form of greeting between the Hawaiian people was the rubbing of noses and the exchange of breath. This exchange was meaningful in the sense of indicating camaraderie, trust between the parties, and sharing of their essence. The missionaries and explorers would not participate in this greeting; and were therefore, referred to as Haole. I cannot, in my research, learn why the early foreign visitors to Hawai'i did not comply with this traditional greeting. I would think that on discovering a new land, an explorer would not hesitate to learn and participate in a tradition of its people in order to understand the tradition and lifestyle of a newly discovered culture. Could it have been a matter of personal hygiene or just the fact that the gesture was far too personal to share with a heathen? Haole...not a derogatory term in itself, but it may have become more so in modern times as more and more foreigners made their way to Hawai'i.

A preliminary sketch of a piece I would like to do depicting “HA – the Breath.” The young Hawaiian warrior has returned home after an extended ocean journey in his double-hulled canoe.

My Hawaiian dictionary translates the word haole simply as "white person" be he American, Englishman, Caucasian...formerly any foreigner, i.e. of foreign origin. There is also the term ho'ohaole, which is to act like a white person, to ape the white people or assume airs of superiory. A term most often used toward the hapa-haole (half-white) Hawaiian. I am hapa-haole, raised in Hawai'i the Hawaiian way and as a young woman moved to the mainland. When I went home for a visit many years later, a couple of islanders used that term to describe me...a term I didn't take kindly to. Personally, I use the term to identify a white person, just as I would say Chinese or Japanese or Black to identify a person of that race. I've been told that such descriptive terms are not politically correct. It surprises me that someone would be offended by being described by their race.

Unknown to most are the underlying prejudices that exist among the Hawaiian people which have developed over the years since the coming of the white man. Those prejudices are still evident now in the 21st century. It is more than the original travelers not exchanging the is the capturing and demise of a is the loss of a is the demeaning of a once proud race brought to its knees by greed. The bright side is the resurgence of a people who are not willing to sit back and watch it all slip away. The renaissance of Hawai'i has come through King David Kalakaua and his reinstating of the hula. The renaissance has been fueled by those who truly want to know from where they came...a movement that continues to grow in strength to the point that peoples of other nations want and do share in the wonderful art form of the Hula.

His Hawaiian Majesty David Kalakaua wrote in February, 1887 about the Hawaiian people: "Within a century they have dwindled from four hundred thousand healthy and happy children of nature, without care and without want, to a little more than a tenth of that number of landless, hopeless victims to the greed and vices of civilization. They are slowly sinking under the restraints and burden of their surroundings, and will in time succumb to social and political conditions foreign to their natures and poisonous to their blood. Year by year their footprints will grow more dim along the sand of their reef-sheltered shores, and fainter and fainter will come their simple songs from the shadows of the palms, until finally their voices will be heard no more forever."

Sorry for the heaviness of the topic. It is worth knowing; however, why a word came into being.

Aloha nui loa for now.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Sisters

It’s interesting that as you get older, that without having the intent, thoughts go back to earlier years.I’ve been told that this happens as you age, but being that I’ve never been at this space in time before I am just now discovering this to be fact. Can’t say whether I like it or not because then I have to admit that I am at that time of life. Actually a comfortable place to be, IMHO, because I am comfortable with who I am and am accepting of my past mistakes and human frailties.

I am remembering Wailuku, Maui in the mid ‘50’s. I had three older sisters… slim, long legs and extremely attractive. In order of age, they were Glori, Lei and Charlene…at least that’s the names I called them. They all had Hawaiian names, but Glori and Charlene went by their given English names. Lei did not have an English name and I was called by my Hawaiian name…Lokelani or Loke for short. Oh, almost forgot that we did have a brother…Kaiwa. He was the youngest of five and unfortunately he was kind of lost in the midst of all these women.

My sisters were popular, never lacking for dates. Needless to say our home never lacked for visiting young men. Glori and Charlene attended Kamehameha School for girls, a boarding school on the island of Oahu so other than holidays, they were gone for nine months out of the year. When they were home for summer vacation though they told stories of their in-school exploits…stories I loved hearing. Glori’s stories were the funniest because she was into everything. She was the “big man” on campus, had lots of boyfriends, and did crazy things. One story I remember really well is that after lights out she wanted to visit with the girls in other rooms, stripped down to her undies, climbed out the window and swung from window to window to get where she wanted to go. Can’t remember if she took her clothes with her. She told me this story herself so I have to assume it was for real. My sister Lei was an asthmatic through most of her childhood and spent a lot of time in the hospital. However, she still proved to be a typical teenager; having her share of boyfriends. In my opinion, compared to them, my life was pretty colorless.

Recently did this for a dyptich.
From front to back: Lei, Charlene and me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More on Iao Valley

Yesterday I blogged some on Iao Valley, a magnificent little valley on the island of Maui. I've since been reminded that according to stories and legends that have come to light from the pre-Christian days of Hawai'i, the Eternal Creator was also known as I'ao (Ee-yah-oy).

I'ao was the supreme light of the world. Iao Valley was named for this great diety. The rock pillar in the center of this valley, now commonly referred as "The Needle" was once a rock altar where the natives of Maui came to pay homage to their Lord I'ao. (excerpt from "Children of the Rainbow" by Leinani Melville).

At the head of the cast of the Hawaiian gods was the eternal creator, Teave (tay-ah-vay), also sometimes called I'O meaning soul, one's inner self. Teave was the "Soul of the World." I must say re-reading about the gods and religions of old and being a Christian, I find the similarities between the descriptions of old Hawai'i gods and the one true God so in tune with each other and their "positions" in the Heavenly hierarchy. I can't help but wonder if old Hawai'i was really a heathen nation (even with all their personal gods) they believed there was the Eternal Creator (the Father); Tane was the Son and all that emanated from the Father flowed through the Son. Is that not how Christians believe?...the Son, Jesus the Christ was in complete obedience to God the Father and all he did came from the Father.

Amazing food for thought.

Me ke aloha o Akua

P.S. Forgot to mention that Iao Valley was also the select spot for internment of the elite of the Hawaiian hierarchy. The bones of Hawaiian nobility were hidden so well within the valley so that they could not be found and desecrated.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Iao Valley

My father was 100% Hawaiian, my mother maybe 1/8 Hawaiian. It was my mother’s family that we were closest to, learned things Hawaiian from and lived with my Tutu (grandmother) Rose off and on for many years. There were five of us. In order of birth there was; Gloriann, Leina’ala, Charlene, me Lokelani, and the only boy Kaiwa. We were pretty close in age and I often wonder how my mother kept her sanity raising us. I don’t believe she had much help from my father. I say that because as far back as I can remember, there were long spaces of time that he wasn’t with the family. I don’t know why, but that was the case. I do remember one of his absences though when he was gone for a long time. He went to what was Canton Island to work and was gone for a couple of years. My mom, with the help of her family, kept us together…for that I will always be thankful to her. A lot of what I learned of my heritage came almost exclusively from my Tutu Rose. She told us the stories and legends of Hawai’i, most of them scary and prayed every night to her gods. I learned on being a girl from my older sisters and also learned on what not to do and how to keep from getting into trouble from them.

To get a feel for painting landscapes, I did a practice piece of The Needle in Iao Valley on the island of Maui. What was a simple, practice landscape turned out to be a powerful reminder that touched my soul deeply. It took me back to my childhood…the fun, the trauma, my siblings, my family… the emotions it invoked completely overwhelmed me. Not only was I so touched by it, but so were the family members who viewed it. For some it brought tears, for others deep reflection of the memories that surfaced at dealing with that time of their lives. Maybe as someone mentioned…the lone figure…the lost little girl??

As children we (my siblings and cousins) would trek up to Iao Valley by way of a cow path that led out of the small cemetery at the end of Vineyard Street in the town of Wailuku. We would swim in the Wailuku Creek at the Mahi’s pond and other ponds on our way to Kepaniwai Park and The Needle. On the way we picked and ate guava and nuts; drank the fresh, cold, sweet water out of the creek; picked clusters of ti leaves and rode them down the muddy slopes. When the ginger was in bloom, the scent of the flowers permeated the valley so thickly that it felt that the scent was completely absorbed by your clothing and even your body.

I recall a time when we, my mother, Tutu Rose and the kids, went to Mahi’s pond for a family picnic. After swimming for a while I went back to the car to change my clothes and get ready for some lunch. When I was changed ready to return to the fun, I looked out the window and found myself and the car surrounded by cows. I was petrified. I screamed and screamed, crying like a baby for my mother. The cows just stood there through all my caterwauling looking at me as if I was a complete idiot. Needless to say, both Mama and Tutu came running to rescue me. When they saw what was really going on they both let me know how silly I was being and that the cows would not have hurt me. How was I to know that, I’d never been that close to cows before. Check out this fun sketch, which was done for one of my art forum challenges called Silly Situations.

I often wish my children and grandchildren could experience the innocence of that time.

Aloha for now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Change of Pace

It has been a while since I’ve done any serious drawing so as a change of pace I thought I would draw instead of paint for a couple of days. Needed a break from the painting anyway and could surely use the drawing practice. I did three pieces…

Started with a very intense portrayal of my nephew...Then onto a tender piece I call "Keiki Kane" (male child). Then decided to do a piece with more of a challenge. I have never attempted to do a drawing with this much detail before, but did enjoy doing it very much and love how it turned out.

The practice was good and I found my love for drawing again.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Make A Joyful Noise - Continued

I'm sorry, didn't realize that it has been a while since I posted. Life gets in the way sometimes.

The word hula, the act of which is depicted in the painting below, literally translates as “dance.” As it is in so many other cultures, the hula was a religious ritual. Another translation of the word hula that I have read is…”a gift.” A gift to the gods in thanks for a reward of nourishment, both spiritual and physical. It is in the motions of the dancer that the offering was made. In other words, the hula was a way to communicate with the gods. The language of motion was not only sacred, but conveyed political, personal and profound views as well. As the word and concept evolved, the primary purpose of the hula remained the same…a means of communication. As a student of the hula, I was taught that the motions of the hula told a story. The story being told in the mele (song) which accompanied the dance. Sadly, the significance and importance of the hula degenerated into merely a form of entertainment for the tourist. In the past few years; however, a renaissance of the culture erupted into hundreds of hula halau (dance schools) being formed, not only in Hawai’i but in foreign lands as well. In the halau the kumu hula (dance teacher) teach the dance, culture and history of the Hawaiians/Polynesians to hundreds of eager students of varying ethnic backgrounds.

Taking an excerpt from an article written by Larry V. LeDoux for “Hawai’i” magazine.
“In the same way, mele (song) is both poetry and prayer – and often educational primer. In mele, language is essential. An old Hawaiian proverb states that, “In the word there is life. In the word there is death.” Words lend themselves to healing. Words lend themselves to destruction. This recognition of the power of language was and is vital to the Hawaiian artist, be he poet, priest or composer.

The mele had a significance to the Hawaiians which we – as members of a print-oriented culture – can never fully appreciate. In a culture with only an oral tradition, the olelo, or spoken word, holds a central place not only in communication but also in the transmission of culture. It was through chants that Hawaiians learned how to behave, how to plant, grow or harvest, fish or fight, build canoes or beat tapa, revere their elders, leaders and gods. Only through the chant could they learn how to mourn death, celebrate life, survive – and teach their youth as they had learned.”

What Mr. LeDoux does not mention here is a very important fact. It was also through chants that the genealogies of Hawaiian Ohana (family) were maintained. Each family had a primary person who was entrusted with the family genealogy, which was passed from one generation to another. Due to the fact that this was a culture with only an oral tradition, the importance of choosing the right person for this responsibility was paramount.

“Make A Joyful Noise”
Overall diptych: 31x24
Oil on stretched canvas

With this painting I am trying to bring the above explanation to the viewer. The olelo (spoken word) or mele (song) of the chanters, along with the movements and motions of the dancers, raise praises to the Almighty…always to His glory.

I’ve learned a lot doing this diptych. Firstly and most important is to make sure you have both sides ready for paint, (e.g. both sketched in) and that you have enough paint mixed, and making sure your values are correspondingly the same. As you can see in the above, I will have to make some adjustments. The story behind this painting is in the first post here.

Thanks for looking and your comments are most appreciated.