Hawaiian Culture – Pastels


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    Clifford

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    Clifford Neaole, a humble spirit and gracious host, has fostered global understanding, awareness and respect for the Hawaiian culture through his work as the Cultural Advisor for the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

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    Crater’s Edge

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    Kilauea, at the Fire Pit, home of the Godess Pele, is where I first experienced “kahiko” or ancient hula.  In 1983 I witnessed an array of descriptive chants accompanied by hula, recounting the stories of centuries of Pele’s history and linage.  Afterwards the “kumu hula”, the Kanakaole sisters, stood at the caldera’s edge, smoke and mist tangling their hair, looking at home in this awesome place, as if they were part of the landscape that is Kilauea.   It was this experience that lead me to start painting the Hawaiian culture.

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    Kahuna kahu o ka malamalama

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    In the summer of 1989 I was asked to do a piece of artwork commemorating the 200th anniversary of Pu'ukohala, one of the most sacred heiaus (temples) of the Hawaiian people. I live less than 10 miles from the site and felt honored to be asked to do such an important image. It was at the event that I first met Hale Makua--a spiritual leader and mentor to many of the men of the Na Koa. He had kind eyes and was easy to talk to and we quickly developed a friendship.  I was snapping photographs all morning when I turned and saw him sitting calmly under a tree, beautifully backlit by the rays of the morning sun. As I prepared to take the picture,...

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    Pohakulani

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    This is the Alaka'i (dance leader) of Halau o Kekuhi.  She has devoted her life to the study of hula, though right now she is taking a break to find out how the rest of the world lives.  She is an elegant, lovely girl with a quiet, sweet spirit and a determined edge.  In this hula she uses her pa’u skirt in a movement over her shoulders reminding me of the outstretched wings of a bird.  She looked as if she could almost fly off the stage.

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    Forest Dancer

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    In the image "Forest Dancer," a young girl wears forest fern and ukui nut lei as she prepares to dance at the hula platform in Volcano's National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. Her beautiful eyes pieced my soul and I wanted to share that moment with you.

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    Ka Hula

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    If your image of the hula is that of graceful hips and cellophane skirts, you are missing what is the best of Hawaii.  To me it is the Kane, the men of the Hula that make it amazing.  Their power and strength, speed and perfection that keep people coming back, year after year, to the Merrie Monarch.

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    Breath of Kilauea

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    This is one of my favorite pieces.  My husband and I had gone up to the summit of Kilauea several years ago to watch Halau o ke Kuhi perform at the caldera’s edge.   It was a very odd day.  The lava fields had steam rising from every crack and fold, billowing in clouds around us.  It was as if the volcano itself was breathing.  Little did we know it, but that was the beginning of this latest eruption at the caldera.  A few days later part of the fire pit collapsed and a huge tower of steam shot up. This young dancer in her beautiful traditional pa’u skirt caught my eye.  The mist and steam had beaded on her skin and she almost glowed.

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    Hula Sisters

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    The image, “Hula Sisters”, depicts three of Kumu Hula Nani Lim Yap’s dancers each facing a different compass point, doing an oli aloha, welcoming their hula “sisters” from all over the world to the Big Island, where the Hula was born.

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    Ipu Heke

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    The echo of a welcome chant, or "oil aloha," seems to hang in the air around the young dancer who poses with an ipu heke, or gourd drum, used to make the intricate beats used in kahiko, or ancient hula. She carries a fan of woven lauhala.

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    Moku O Keawe

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    This was the second image in the series of paintings that I did for the Moku O Keawe Festival.  The monies from these posters were donated to help perpetuate this great event.  Moku O Keawe was the original name for the Big Island.  It means “Land of Keawe” who was the ruling Chief of the Island at the time.  In this image I was trying to capture the Big Islands essence.  The three dancers represent the mountains Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualala’i.  Their lau hala skirts made me think of the waves breaking on the shore or the mists curling around the mountains.

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    In Honor of Laka

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    A male hula dancer is caught in profile while dancing at the Merrie Monarch Festival. It is said that Laka, goddess of hula, was the first to add grace to dancing, to move to the rhythm of the ocean, or the wind of the trees. Fern was her favorite lei.

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    Brittani – Strings of Fire

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    This image was the album cover of young Brittani Paiva called, Strings on Fire.  Brittani is an amazing talent on the ukulele and together we were nominated for album cover of the year for the Na Hoku Awards!

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    Kane

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    Men, or kane, were the first to dance hula. When men started to dance the old kahiko style of hula again, it sparked a huge revival of interest in the Hawaiian culture. Here, two members of the halau o kekuhi dance in the sun wearing skirts of raffia.

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    Dance in the Sunlight

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    This was Halau o Kekuhi performing up at the hula platform at Kilauea’s summit.  I have to admit, it is a rare day that the sun shines during a performance at the hula platform!

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    Basket of Aloha

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    "Basket of Aloha" represents the warm hospitality and generosity of the people of Hawaii. Many of us here are blessed with the overflowing abundance of fruits and flowers in our yards. It is common to find an anonymous box of papayas, a rusty coffee can full of brilliant orchids, or a ripening bunch of bananas from your neighbor left on your doorstep. It is one of the joys of island living.

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    Cherry Blossoms

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    This image is special.  In October of 2006, the Big Island was hit by a big earthquake measuring 6.7 that lasted almost a minute.  Though it was kept quiet do to tourisum, the damage was extensive.  Over 60 houses were destroyed, over $200 million worth of damage.  But no one was hurt.

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    Hula Halau

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    In "Hula Halau," meaning house of dance, members of Halau O Kekuhi, under the guidance of kumu hulas (teachers) Nalani and Pua Kanakaole, stand ready to dance at the Kilauea Volcano. After the death of their month, Edith Kehuhikuhipuuoneonaaliiokohala Kenao Kanakaole, the two sisters joined together to continue passing on their mother's legacy. They hold their home to be Kilauea, and claim ancestry with Pele herself.

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    Ehu

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    In "Ehu" (red), three members of the Halau of Kehuki, wearing the color of lava that flows from Kilauea volcano, dance at the caldera's edge.

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    Kukui Lei

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    While up at the Volcano’s National Park during one of the hula performances on the authentic hula platform we found this captivating child wearing a head lei of Kukui leaves.  It was noon and the sun beat straight down, highlighting the lei till it shown like a crown.

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    Ho’omakaukau

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    This word asks “Are you ready!” and you will hear the Kumu Hula shout it out just before a performance.  The dancers then answer, “Aye” (yes) and step out.  Understanding the term is more than just  the words.

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    Daughter of the Land

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    Our beloved Nohea Amaral Kahiliwai, daughter, wife, mother and dancer, passed away suddenly from cancer.  We have eaten many times up at her beautiful home in Koloko, surrounded by the forest and listening to the bird calls.  It is so high up the mountain that even my Kamuela hardened body shivers with the cold!  We saw, first-hand, her dedication to her husband, little son, mother-in-law.  Her ready smile lightened every ones heart.

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    Pau Hula

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    While most people who visit Hawaii experience some form of hula (some of it very good) in their evenings of Polynesian Luau shows, in reality, hula exists casually at real family and community gatherings all over the Hawaiian islands.  It is also performed with intense perfection at hula competitions, such as the Merrie Monarch Festival, where planning and practice for performing two dances, one ancient and one modern, can take a year.   Pau Hula represents that final moment when that year culminates to thunderous applause, as thousands of hours, exhausted muscles, bloody knees, and tired feet all come together in a perfect performance.

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    Kahu O Makou

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    "Kahu o makou 'o makou noa e..." ("We call upon God to inspire and free us!")

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    A Ka Luna O Kilauea

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    This image was done at the same time as “Breath of Kilauea”.  At the Fire Pit’s edge the heat must have been intense.  If you look closely you will see the birds riding the hot air currents as if they were at an amusement park!  Against the dark sky the colors of her ancient pa’u skirt and the steam from the vents were startling.