COURTESY PAI FOUNDATION
The Santa Fe Indian Market provided the inspiration for Maoli (Native) Arts Month, offering Hawaiian craftsmen, artists and cultural experts to share their work and expertise in a series of events.
Driven to give native Hawaiian art and culture good exposure
To art enthusiast Vicky Holt Takamine, attending the Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico was comparable to the experience of a classical music aficionado listening to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra play Beethoven's Fifth at Lincoln Center.
"It was amazing!" recalled the kumu (teacher) of Pua Alii Ilima, an Oahu-based hula school. "There was a juried exhibit of hundreds of paintings, ceramics, weavings, carvings, jewelry and more, in a 31,000-square-foot warehouse. The line to enter the exhibit went around the block!"
In the event's marketplace, Takamine recalled, 1,200 American Indian artists displayed an equally diverse array of wares in more than 600 booths set up in Santa Fe Plaza in the center of the city, and on surrounding roads that were closed to vehicular traffic for the event.
She knew the Santa Fe Indian Market had been presented annually since 1922 and was the single largest native arts event in the world. She also knew it attracted 100,000 people from all over the world and was the result, in part, of a federal policy of supporting American Indian arts and crafts as a means of economic development.
COURTESY PAI FOUNDATION
Participants can enjoy hands-on activities such as beating kapa, weaving lauhala, playing Hawaiian games and watching demonstrations of wood carvig, and more.
COURTESY PAI FOUNDATION
Events will take place at Bishop Museum, the Outrigger Waikiki, downtown Honolulu, city hall and the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort on the Big Island.
Takamine; Noelle Kahanu, Bishop Museum's project manager; and local artists Hiko Hanapi, Bob Freitas, Natalie Jensen-Oomtuk and her husband Art Oomtuk decided to see the market firsthand in August 2005. They came home committed to creating a similar event in Hawaii that would spotlight native Hawaiian art and artists.
Maoli (Native) Arts Month, now popularly known as MAMo, was launched in 2006 under the auspices of the nonprofit PAI Foundation established by Pua Alii Ilima in 2001 to perpetuate, preserve and shed light on Hawaii's cultural and environmental issues. Takamine serves as the foundation's executive director and MAMo's project director and co-chairwoman.
Thanks to funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Ford Foundation and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the PAI Foundation will again spearhead MAMo in May with three goals in mind.
"First, it's our way of celebrating and showcasing the depth, breadth and diversity of the native Hawaiian arts community," said Takamine. "Second, we hope to educate locals and visitors about native Hawaiian art and to create economic opportunities for our artists by increasing their presence in museums and galleries. Third, we want to encourage native Hawaiian artists to meet with and mentor young Hawaiians to ensure the continuation of both contemporary and traditional art forms."
IN TAKAMINE'S opinion, native Hawaiian artists have not received the recognition and respect they deserve, even in Hawaii.
"Their works are rarely shown in our museums and art galleries," she said, "and they receive few commissions from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. Rather, what appears and receives attention is 'Hawaiian art' made by non-Hawaiian artists employing Hawaiian themes and motifs. Copies of our art are being sold for much less than the originals because they're mass-produced."
Moreover, native Hawaiians who practice traditional arts such as kapa making and feather work are often dismissed as crafters.
"Characterizing their work as 'functional art' rather than 'fine art' usually translates into lower market values, which means they can't make a living from it," said Takamine, who hopes MAMo will change that.
"The native Hawaiians' arts movement is far behind that of the native Americans, native Alaskans and even those in our Pacific family, like the Maoris in New Zealand," said Takamine. "We have much catching up to do, and MAMo offers a wonderful opportunity for us to create a market that reflects who we truly are as a people and as a community."
Mamo: Maoli Arts Month 2008
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» Thursday: MAMo awards ceremony and gallery reception at Bishop Museum, 6 to 9 p.m., recognizes native Hawaiian visual artists who are longtime supporters of native Hawaiian arts. This year's recipients are lau hala weaver Elizabeth Lee, painter David Parker, sculptor Hanale Hopfe and painter and arts organizer Al Lagunero. An exhibit of their work will be on view in the museum's J.M. Long Gallery through August. Free.
» Friday: First Friday Gallery Walk in Chinatown, with various galleries hosting exhibitions, poetry and prose by more than 20 native Hawaiian artists. Participating galleries include DaSpace and the ARTS at Marks Garage; 5 to 9 p.m.; free.
» May 3-4: Native Hawaiian Arts Market and Keiki Art Festival at Bishop Museum, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature work by more than 40 native Hawaiian visual artists, along with demonstrations, workshops, food booths and Hawaiian entertainment. At the Keiki Art Festival, children will enjoy storytelling and hands-on activities such as beating kapa, weaving lau hala and creating sand art, watercolors and leis. Admission is $15.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids 4 through 12 and seniors 65 and older, $3 for Hawaii residents and military personnel, and free for 3 and younger. Admission includes access to all the museum's galleries.
» May 7, 14, 21, 28: MAMo Wednesdays at the Outrigger Waikiki welcomes demonstrations of such traditional Hawaiian arts as lei making, weaving, fiber craft and woodcarving from 10 a.m. to noon; free.
» May 16: Wearable Art Show and Dinner, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. View traditional and contemporary art worn during native Hawaiian ceremonial rituals, including feather work, shell jewelry and tattoos. Also featured will be weaponry, weaving and carving. A special tribute will be made to late artist and fashion designer Allen Akina. Tickets are $250, and corporate tables run from $2,500 to $10,000 for a five-course gourmet dinner, silent auction and the fashion show.
» May 17 and 18: Hawaii Book and Music Festival on the Fasi Civic Grounds, Honolulu Hale, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. MAMo artists will be displaying and selling their artwork at this annual event, which brings together authors, musicians and storytellers from Hawaii and the mainland. Free.
» May 31: Keauhou Art Market at Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort (on the island of Hawaii), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Native Hawaiian artists will display and sell their art while children try T-shirt screening, painting, lei making, lau hala weaving and more. Free.
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.