ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
Stone and wood sculptor John "Kalewa" Matsushita stood with his new Wahi Kapu, or "sacred place," sculpture after its unveiling yesterday at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. CLICK FOR LARGE
Sculpture honors Pele
The work reminds visitors of the sacred areas in the Big Isle volcanoes park
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK » Dignitaries unveiled a 7-ton, 11-foot-high sculpture of stone and wood in Hawaii Volcanoes National park yesterday honoring "Wahi Kapu," or the sacred places in the park.
The sculpture was commissioned through a $38,000 grant to give visitors a sense of why Kilauea and Mauna Loa are revered by native Hawaiians, according to park officials.
The monumental work by sculptor John "Kalewa" Matsushita, 32, of Kona honors the volcano goddess Pele, yet it does so in a manner so subtle that the casual observer might not notice it at first.
The head and torso of the goddess are lightly cut into the face of the stone.
"You can't always see it at every angle," Matsushita said. "I wanted to have the pohaku (stone) featured more than the image."
The effect is to make the viewer work at an understanding rather than see it at a glance.
"There's the mouth and the eyes, the ears and the hair," a woman who identified herself only as Janet from Wyoming told her husband.
Park volunteer Frank Box had a similar experience. "See, it's starting to come out. From the side, I couldn't see it," he said.
Park spokeswoman Mar- die Lane said the volcanic activity of the park is the "attention grabber."
Wanting to bring attention to the park's cultural values, the park began two competitions in 2003, she said. One resulted in a new painting of Pele in 2003. The Wahi Kapu sculpture project took longer.
Matsushita's concept was chosen by the park's Kupuna Consultation Committee from 30 entries.
Matsushita consulted extensively with Hawaiian elders and was guided by a vision of the late Emma Kauhi, who grew up in an area now part of the park. "Lava is flowing from Mauna Loa like a river. The upper part of a woman's body is visible in the lava flow -- it's Pele riding down the flow," Kauhi had said.
Matsushita's work is titled "Ulumau Pohaku Pele," which kupuna Pualani Kanakaole-Kanahele interpreted as the ever-growing stone of Pele.