Yes, it's true. The very next day after school let out, this Pennsylvania gal officially left the eastern seaboard to journey to... HAWAII! I visited the third largest of the Hawaiian islands, Oahu (the island of Hawaii is the largest, followed by Maui). Matt and I got to spend two whole weeks on the tiny, gorgeous island in the Pacific due to an extremely generous invitation from two very close friends. Our home base was on the windward side of the island in a beautiful little town called Kailua.
[caption id="attachment_1166" align="alignleft" width="300"] Matt and I on the first leg of the trip from Pennsylvania to Logan Airport in Boston, Mass.[/caption]
It was super neat to experience the island under the guidance of someone who grew up there. We definitely filled each day with an ideal blend of adventure and much-needed relaxation. Hawaii is the most isolated populated group of islands on earth - 2,390 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan! We were truly isolated from our everyday lives and responsibilities which was both fun and terrifying at the same time!
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"] Much to my delight, there were a bazillion of these little guys to be found on Oahu. I would always catch their movement over sunny surfaces anywhere we visited on the island![/caption]
I was uber-captivated by the flora and fauna that the island offered. There were so many leafy/ petal shapes I just had never seen before. And the colors, THE COLORS! The natural palette of the island was intense to say the least. I was also impressed by the sweet simplicity of most of the Hawaiian architecture. Most homes were one story, with modest, bungalow-style square footage. Despite the small sizes, the homes seemed like comfortable, cool, idyllic living spaces.
On the third day of our stay I found a book in the night stand of the room I was staying in that detailed the life if Princess Ka'iulani. I can't specifically say why, but I immediately became obsessed with her biography. Ka'iulani's full name was Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn! She was heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii and held the title of crown princess. Kaʻiulani became known throughout the world for her intelligence, beauty and fearless determination to "be political." After the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, she visited the President Grover Cleveland in D.C. to help restore the Kingdom, however her efforts were not enough to prevent the annexation.
[caption id="attachment_1206" align="alignleft" width="240"] 'Iolani Palace was built in 1882 under the reign of King Kalakaua. It had electricity four years ahead of the White House in Washington, D.C.[/caption]
In reading about her life, I discovered a lot of information about the post-colonial government and the history of the royal Hawaiian families. On the fifth day of our vacation we visited 'Iolani Palace in Honolulu. It is the only royal palace in the USA.
On the second day of our trip, we visited The Byodo-In Temple. The Byodo-In Temple is a non-denominational Buddhist temple located in "The Valley of the Temples, not very far from our home base in Kailua. This brass bell is called a Bon-sho, which means sacred bell. It hangs in its own house outside of the main building at the Byodo-In Temple. It is 5 feet tall and weighs three tons! The bell is customarily rung before one enters the temple to spread the eternal teachings of Buddha. Ringing the bell will purify the mind of evil spirits and temptation. It is said that ringing this bell will bring you happiness, blessings, and a long life.
Of course, on my journey I discovered lots of beautiful art! I also took not note of this beautiful quote written on one of the gallery walls in The Bishop Museum of Natural History (Honolulu, HA) I think it sums up the complexity of Polynesian artistry quite nicely.
The artist in Polynesia was a priest eminently trained in the sacred and esoteric knowledge of his society. The process of creation was a sacred act." -J.C. Edler (1999)
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] An artist at the Aloha Stadium swap-meet carving an intricate design into a long board.[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Gold-leaf Buddha sculpture in the Byodo-In Temple.[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="320"] This is a piece of kapa on display at the Bishop museum that is about 300 years old. It was said to have been work by a member of the chiefly caste (ali'i.)[/caption]
The most precious art discovery I made in Hawaii easily was KAPA! Kapa is paper-like fabric that was made by Native Hawaiians. Kapa is made by beating fibers of the wauke tree with "beater" (ʻiʻe kūkū) onto a stone slab! The beaters have four flat sides each with their own distinctive textural pattern. After the fibers have merged, the Kapa is covered with beautiful linear designs and geometric shapes like triangles, squares, chevrons, and diamonds. The process of making kapa was done primarily by women -- a process handed down through generations from mother to daughter.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Kapa beating sticks. If you look closely you can see the different textures on flat beating surface.[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] This station was set up by the Bishop Museum to allow visitors to take their own turn beating some kapa. The feel of kapa was most comparable to the Tyvek material used in certain postal envelopes.[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"] My sketchbook design for our sand sculpture![/caption]
And even though it was vacation, I managed to get some art making in too. I teamed up with one of my vacation-mates to create a large scale sand sculpture of the Hawaiian goddess, Pele. Pele is the deity in charge of fire, wind, lightning and volcanoes. Every incident with a volcanic eruption in Hawaii it is said to be Pele's way of expressing her longing to be with her true love, in many stories a young chief named Lohiau, but she's a fickle and dangerous lover who sometimes kills her husbands. Yikes!
However fleeting, I am glad I had the chance to leave my mark on the island of Oahu. It certainly has left an indelible mark on me. I will not soon forget the amazing culture I got to discover and two amazing weeks with friends and loves that are so dear to me.