Friday, March 25, 2011

Little-Known Great

Aloha    Friend-

Just days before the earthquake & tsunami
Hawaii lost a living treasure,
Herb Kawainui Kane.
Come meet this remarkable person
now. . .

Behind this land of Aloha there is a past.

It begins in the sea's deepest depths,

where we broke out in fire.  

A fiery goddess danced creation,

the plants and birds placed themselves here

and rejoiced. 

And then (only then) the people could come. . .

by Herb Kane

Great voyagers they were.

While all the world clung near to coasts,

they knew and followed the sea,

currents, birds and stars were their colleagues. 

Following the Hoku Le`a (the Star of Gladness)

they came here to virgin islands and named them

'Hawaii Nei'


'Hawaii Loa'

 names shrouded in the mists of Polynesian history,

shrouded in the mysteries. . . 

No one knows what they mean. Or they're not talking.

Herb Kane's Battle of the Pali

Great kingdoms came and went. 

Keawe kings ruled the Big Island.

Then one arose who saw the first ships of Captain Cook,

and who then united the islands

in the face of a suddenly bigger world.

Kamehameha The Great, the 'Lonely One' 

drove Oahu's defenders over the dramatic Pali cliffs

just above our Honolulu Town.

  We drive over the Pali

with ghosts and gods in our cars,

we know about these things,

largely because of one man:


 (pronounced KAH-ney)
Historian, Fine Artist, Author, Hawaiian.

Born in 1928, raised in Waipi'o Valley and Hilo, Hawai'i, Mr. Kane served in the US Navy,
then studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earning his master's degree 1953, and also at the University of Chicago.

Fortunately, he set up his studio
and his home
in rural South Kona
on the island of Hawaii,
(near my first Hawaiian home in a coffee shack).

While anthropologists strenuously disagreed 
about the peopling of these islands,
Mr. Kane and a few like-minded friends birthed the idea of building a real-life Hawaiian voyaging canoe, the like of which had not been seen in centuries.

Calling her Hokule`a,
and naming Herb Kane her first captain back in 1975,
was a first chapter in
the reclaiming of pride and respect to the native Hawaiian people who lost so much
along with their sovereignty.

The Holule`a sailed without instruments,
and suddenly it was cool to be Hawaiian!

Music and Hula flourished
and there was again pride 
in the old ways & wisdom.

In 1984 the artist/captain was elected
a Living Treasure of Hawaii.

In 1987 "The Year of the Hawaiian" 
he was one of sixteen persons chosen as
Po'okela (Champion).

From 1988 to 1992 he served as a founding trustee of the Native Hawaiian Culture & Arts Program, a Federal program at Bishop Museum. 

In 1998, he was awarded Bishop Museum's Charles Reed Bishop Medal.

In 2002, he received an award for excellence from  The Hawaii Book Publishers Association.

He is a 2008 recipient of an honorary doctorate awarded by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Herb's Hawaii commemorative stamp for the U.S. Postal Service, celebrated 50 years of statehood, when released in August 2009.

But those are just awards.

This man raised his people,
his home,
and human dignity.
He redeemed the ancestors.

What a legacy!

The Hokule`a has since voyaged as far afield as Japan, visiting all corners of the Polynesian Triangle, to Tahiti and the Marquesas.  

And when we Hawaii people think of grandmother Pele (the volcano goddess)
of the Pali Battle,
of the discovery of Hawaii by canoes,
it is the images created by Herb Kane that we see
in our hearts & minds.
     Herb Kane in his Kona studio, October 2010. Photo by David Croxford for HAWAII Magazine

“Every brushstroke and every word
has brought and will forever bring
wisdom, beauty, inspiration
and understanding.”
Herb Kawainui Kane

My little Hawaii novel was considered worthy of being brought along
on Hokule`a's Japan voyage!

"Thank you; we have lots of time to read out there."
Nainoa Thompson, Captain of the Hokule`a