It's a family affair: photographerBy Stephanie Kendrick
daughter, sculpture father, and
author mother, all contribute
to 'Daughters of Haumea'
Assistant Features Editor
NATALIE Mahina Jensen is 30, beautiful, talented, intelligent and single. The last bit may be a result of the intensity that charges the air around her.
"I scare men. Someone will say they are interested in getting to know me better and poof, next thing I know they're gone," said Jensen.
But that's OK, because while Jensen would like to have a relationship and, ultimately, a family, she's not likely to settle for just any guy.
"I believe in having a sacred child and that requires a sacred man," said Jensen.
The insecure need not apply.
Jensen has a deep respect for the best in men and women, which appears to be an inherited family trait.
Her parents Rocky and Lucia Jensen published the illustrated history "Men of Ancient Hawaii" in 1974, and Natalie is now working with both to complete the sequel, "Daughters of Haumea."
The book isn't due until next spring, but a preview is available. The photographs that will illustrate the book, along with much of the text, are on exhibit at Ramsay Galleries through Nov. 26.
"This is not an art show for art sake and let's get together and have a glass of wine and then it's over," said Lucia. "It deals with empowering women, not only Hawaiian women but all women."
While the first book was illustrated by Rocky's drawings, the second will feature Natalie's photographs of 20 women engaged in traditional occupations of ali'i women, such as kapa making, child rearing and shoreline fishing. Photographs of important feminine symbols are also included in the show.
Natalie uses body art to further the symbolism in her black-and-white photographs. Often, patterns painted on the models are repeated on the matting surrounding the photographs.
Both men and women were tattooed in ancient Hawaii and women used henna-type body paint, mainly on their hands, wrists and legs, said Natalie.
The tattoos offered spiritual protection as well as identification, with sacred meanings related to the wearer's occupation. Natalie created the designs used in her photographs, but they are based on research.
"They are very traditional. I just elaborated on them a bit," she said.
Natalie, who got her first tattoo at 25 as an initiation into her culture, said her next project will focus on Hawaiian tattoos. "Tattoos really were not documented like they should be," she said.
While her parents will not be direct collaborators in that project, Natalie does not expect them to be completely uninvolved. "I'm sure they'll have their two cents to put in."
The trio work together well, she said.
Rocky has spent more time in sculpture than illustration in the past few years and made all of the implements used in Natalie's photographs, as well as free-standing pieces included in the show. Natalie and Lucia came up with the ideas for the photographs together, as Lucia has spent much of the past 30 years researching ancient Hawaiian women. Lucia wrote the text both for the book and the show.
The models were selected for the contributions they make to the community as educators, activists, business women and artists.
Clothed and painted in the traditions of ancient Hawaii and placed in natural settings, the strength of spirit evinced by all of Natalie's models reaches out to the viewer. Although her work is aesthetically pleasing, these are not just pretty pictures.
"My whole thing is really to get Native Hawaiian women back into their culture," she said. The Jensens plan to take the show through the state and to the West Coast. Native Hawaiian women on the mainland are "clueless" about their culture, said Natalie.
"I want them to realize we didn't just have hula."
In keeping with the family's "art with a message" philosophy, proceeds from the Daughters of Haumea project, both the exhibit and the book, will go to develop a program to meet the needs of Hawaiian women and children in crisis.
"In old Hawaii, women and children were not abused," said Natalie, who believes disconnection from the culture is behind much of the domestic abuse among Native Hawaiians. Women were considered sacred because of their child-bearing ability; men were women's shields, she said. "They knew without the women there would not be men."
"(The exhibit) goes beyond just what is appears to be," said Lucia. "Art is a powerful means to express a message."
What: Exhibit of photographs by Natalie Mahina Jensen and sculptures by Rocky Ka'iouliokahihikolo 'Ehu Jensen with text by Lucia Tarallo Jensen. Presented by Hale Naua III Society of Hawaiian Arts
Daughters of Haumea
Where: Ramsay Galleries, 1128 Smith St.
When: Through Nov. 26
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