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Saturday, January 13, 2001

From Ivonne Ung, courtesy to the Star-Bulletin
This sculpture, depicting a Hawaiian myth of a baby turning
into a shark, has drawn criticism because of the baby's
topless mother. There are plans to modify the sculpture
by covering the breasts.

Avert your eyes!

Education officials have criticized
Campbell High's planned female
statue because it is topless

By Janine Tully

IF the mother of Ka'ahupahau -- the mythical baby who turned into a shark -- knew the commotion her breasts would cause, she might have covered them with tapa cloth.

Campbell High School Principal Gail Awakuni, who was hired this school year, found plans for a bare-breasted statue inappropriate for a high school and wanted the design changed.

To accommodate the school administration, artist Kazu Fukuda has agreed to alter his clay model by adding a cloth draping over her chest. The exact design has not been developed, he said. "Let's say, the sculpture is still a work in progress."

The completed 7-1/2-foot sculpture will be cast in bronze.

The change will further delay the installation of the $60,000 sculpture, which was to be placed behind the administration building last year.

The principal is not the only one to object to the artwork. The piece has also raised eyebrows among Department of Education officials, said Jo Giubilato, a photography teacher and member of Campbell's sculpture award committee, which approved the artwork.

Giubilato objects to modifying the sculpture after it was approved two years ago by former Principal Louis Vierra and the state Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

"The work, from its inception to the final prototype, was presented to the school staff and community," Giubilato said.

Photographs of the sculpture were displayed at school, placed in teachers' boxes and appeared on the school's Web site and in its yearbook. An award-winning photograph of the sculpture was shown at Kapolei Theatres for two weeks. Also, the award committee -- composed of teachers, administrators, parents, students and foundation members -- met regularly to discuss the piece.

People had plenty of time to voice their objections and "nobody said boo," she said. "What's the problem?"

THE proposed artwork shows a striking Hawaiian woman wearing a pa'u around her lower torso with legs apart and slightly bent over a baby that is half-human and half-shark. Her hair is cropped short in the style of ali'i women of that time.

Fukuda said the sculpture's breasts symbolize motherhood and nurturing; the piko, or bellybutton, parental connection; and the tense pose of her body illustrates "the angst and worry we all feel bringing up these children."

Shark protector of Ewa

According to legend, the mother immersed her child into the waters and watched the girl turn into a shark, which she named Ka'ahupahau. The shark then became the 'aumakua (protector) of the people of Ewa.

Yearbook adviser Keith Long, who planned to publish a photo of the sculpture in this year's yearbook, was asked by the principal not to do so.

"Students are upset and I'm upset," Long said about the censoring. "Everyone had a chance to say something about it. There's a bare-breasted bust at La Pietra, but that's a private school."

Principal Awakuni did not return calls from the Star-Bulletin.

Senior Marita Malufau, who participated with other students in developing the concept, said Fukuda should be allowed to create the sculpture as originally designed.

"I don't think it's too revealing," she said. "It's pretty. But vandalism could be a problem. People should appreciate the art and not look at it because her breasts are showing."

The school commissioned Fukuda two years ago to create an art piece, as part of the DOE artists-in-schools program. Fukuda was chosen for his portfolio and work with the community and schools. The state foundation provided $50,000 for the project and Campbell Estate $10,000 for the sculpture to be cast in bronze.

Fukuda worked with the students to develop the concept, and "we felt it reflected the culture of the student body," Giubilato said.

He spent over a year researching the project with his art students, settling on the legend of Ka'ahupahau. He saw the project as an educational tool to teach students about their culture, history, anatomy and engineering.

He also saw parallels between the sculpture's nurturing mother figure and teachers, parents and adults in the community. And like the baby who turns into a powerful but protective shark, he saw students becoming powerful and compassionate.

"That's the core meaning of the sculpture," Fukuda said. "It was never my intention to create divisiveness in the community."

Wanted truthful portrayal

Agreeing to modify the sculpture didn't come easy. It went against everything Fukuda was trying to teach his students.

"I wanted to portray the people and culture of that period as truthfully as possible," he said. "What has emerged is a continuation of smoothing over the way people really were because of our views of our bodies. High school is a place of education. Just like other disciplines that teach about our bodies, art shows the body in a healthy, positive way.

"If all one sees are breasts, then you have missed the point, as would someone walking into the Sistine Chapel and only seeing naked people with exposed breasts, penises and buttocks."

By agreeing to cover the statue's breasts, Fukuda has been able to accommodate the concerns of the administration, said Jon Johnson of the state foundation. "The sculpture will still retain its intensity. If he lost the spirit of the piece, then it would be a tragedy."

Meanwhile, students at the school are wondering what the fuss is all about.

Igor Chabrowski, a senior and exchange student from Poland, said he believes the breast issue has been blown out of proportion.

"It's much ado about nothing," said Chabrowski, who is an art student.

"Students aren't really talking about it," he said. "There are so many pregnant girls in school. It's not like students haven't seen breasts before. Adults are being very Victorian about it."

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