Three Waimea stories come alive through art

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WAIMEA — Waimea is at the heart of storied places and this summer three of those stories are being rendered into paintings through a Waimea Educational Hui class taking place at Kanu o ka Aina New Century Public Charter School.


WAIMEA — Waimea is at the heart of storied places and this summer three of those stories are being rendered into paintings through a Waimea Educational Hui class taking place at Kanu o ka Aina New Century Public Charter School.

“We didn’t want these stories to fade away, so we made a promise back in 2010 that we would make every attempt to teach these three stories to every student in Waimea. We’re at a point where we have to bring the stories back because we have new students that haven’t heard them,” said Hui leader Pua Case.

Since June 13, students ages 13 and up have met once a week on Wednesday afternoons for the 12-week course that ends tomorrow. The class is made up of three cycles, each beginning with participants traveling to a storied place and treated to the storytelling treasury of Kuulei Keakealani.

With the first class in June, Keakealani gave a visual tour of the puu that form the site line looking northward, ending on the slope of Puu Hokuula, where gods and goddesses meet and marry. Makua Kauamana, a god in human form, arrives on one of the migrations from Tahiti and is lured to Hokuula.

“Every day Makua Kauamana sees a sign, a hoailona, a low lying rainbow and he takes flight. He’s hovering above Hokuula and he’s peering, looking and indeed he sees a woman, Wao,” retold Keakealani.

They marry and when Wao is ready to give birth, she travels to Lanikepu, the puu behind Hawaii Preparatory Academy.

“It is said that five of the children bear the names of the winds and rains of Waimea,” Keakealani related.

The next step was to bring photographs and the students’ ideas for composition to meet with Kanu art instructor and historian, Scot Plunkett, who shared his art expertise.

“We made the date, we made the time, we made the location and the story. We are tying it all together with the moolelo because of the love and respect for Kuulei, Pua and Waimea,” Plunkett said.

Sitting on the hillside with Keakealani’s words painting mental pictures, it’s easy to imagine the forested, rainbow topped landscape of long ago.

“Rather than a story alone, the way to bring it to life beyond chanting and hula, which is usually the way we do it, is with all the gifts and creativity our students have, that we would do it through the arts,” Case said.

The next story entailed sojourn to Waimea’s rain rock, Manaua, named for the resident moo wahine — guardian lizard of Kohakohau stream. In times of drought, offerings are placed on Manaua, a source of rains to feed the parched land.

“Here, you will find a rock that bears her name, Manaua. It’s her rock to come and sunbathe. Some people can see her in the rock itself,” related Keakealani.

On July 5, the class gathered at the rock, which resides between the Jacaranda Inn and Anna Ranch, where Keakealani shared the tale of Manaua.

A group of young bird fishers from Waiaka travel to Hokuula with their long poles and lines and cast out to capture the kolea birds there. When they finish, they decide to go to Kohakohau pool to swim. Following protocol, they throw a ti leaf into the pond. It floats and so they know they have permission to swim.

But while they are swimming, one of the boys goes missing. They gather their poles and birds and return to Waiaka. They tell the elders that they had followed the ti leaf protocol.

“Then one of the elders speaks and says, ‘It is Manaua, who has taken a liking to this boy and wanted to keep him with her’,” said Keakealani.

The third and final story took place on Aug. 2 atop Mauna a Wakea and explained the source of a pink glow seen some mornings. Kukahauula, the red god with his warm fiery cloak, becomes fascinated with Poliahu and after watching her each day on her way to bathe in Lake Waiau, falls in love with her.

She has many suitors, all of whom her father, Kane, keeps away with his many magical powers. But Kukahauula is the most persistent of suitors and he eventually gains permission from Kane to visit Poliahu in the morning and the afternoon. When the two lovers finally embrace and Ku’s red tapa joins with Poliahu’s fine white one, the mountain glows pink.

The storied places have been revealed, taken to heart and psyche, and the artists have set to work to capture them in their works.

“Reproduce a form that has your mana’o, your ano or some part of you. There’re so many possibilities and different ways of painting imagery,” Plunkett told them.


The many perspectives on these special places will be exhibited at Isaac’s Art Center in early October.

“We are hoping for an art exhibit where students can come to see the story, hear the story, learn the story and also get inspired,” Case said.