Thursday, August 12, 2004


"Isami Pass By," an oil on canvas by Satoru Abe is among the works featured in the exhibit "Spirit of the Dead Watching."

Spirits of the dead

It's the time of year when strings of electric bulbs and paper lanterns light the balmy evenings, and Japanese music drifts from Buddhist temples from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Spirit of the dead watching

Art show opening:

Place: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, 2454 S. Beretania St.

Time: Reception from 5 p.m. Saturday; show will continue 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through Sept. 17

Admission: Free

Call: 945-7633

Folks young and old are drawn like insects to the light and sound. Some come to be part of the crowd dressed in happi coats and kimonos, dancing to the lively music around a giant tower. Others are lured by the local delicacies: teriyaki sticks, fried noodles, maybe some andagi and shave ice, too.

It's bon dance season, anyone who's local can explain.

But how many remember that beyond the colorful spectacle, Obon is a celebration for dearly departed ancestors -- a festival staged not so much for the living, but for the dead?

Obon literally means "lantern festival," and the event is intended to light the way for the return of ancestral spirits who are greeted with offerings of flowers, food and incense.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is providing that reminder with an art exhibition called "Spirit of the Dead Watching," which features the works of 27 Hawaii artists examining the theme of life and death. The show opens at 10 a.m. Saturday and continues through Sept. 17 at the center's Community Gallery.


"Spirit Shadow I -- No Trace," left, and "Spirit Shadow II -- Bardo," by Franco Salmoiraghi .

Among the artists featured are Satoru Abe, Kahi Ching, Solomon Enos, Ka-Ning Fong, Sally French, Mark Hamasaki, Ryan Higa, May Izumi, Imai Kalani Kalahele, Jeeun Kim, Cade Roster, Tadashi Sato, Franco Salmoiraghi, Esther Shimazu and Patricia Yu.

The opening reception will feature performances by Katare at 5:45 p.m. and Lori Ohtani's Tangentz butoh troupe performing "meifu" (the other world) at 6:15 p.m. The piece is derived from Buddhist scripture designating the site where souls of the recently departed go to repose in the afterlife.

"The life and death theme of this first exhibition echoes the spirit of Obon (Buddhist festival of the dead)," said JCCH president and executive director Keiko Bonk. "This celebration of the life of the dead is an integral part of many other cultures around the world, and artists throughout time have been intrigued by this subject."

The show is the first of a new art series at the center, in which artists select their peers for exhibitions.


Helene Wilder's haunting untitled work in pastel and pencil is among works of art commemorating the Obon season.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

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