The key to a bright future is to first understand the past, say photographers and educators Mark Hamasaki and Kapulani Landgraf.
In "Kailua i ke oho i ka Malanai (Kailua in the wisps of the Malanai breeze)" at Gallery Iolani, the duo presents contemporary photography of Kailua, images that offer thought-provoking documentation of changes brought to the area by modernization.
Hamasaki and Landgraf, who are showing the work under the collective name Pi- liamo‘o — translated by Hamasaki as "cling like a mo‘o (lizard)" — originally began the project as part of the Kailua Historical Society’s book "Kailua: In the Wisps of the Malanai Breeze," published last year. Between 2005 and 2008 the pair shot hundreds of photographs. Much of the 45-image exhibit includes work that did not make it into the book.
‘KAILUA I KE OHO I KA MALANAI’
» On exhibit: Through May 31, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays to Fridays
» Where: Gallery Iolani, Windward Community College
» Info: 236-9155 or visit www.gallery.wcc.hawaii.edu
One aerial shot captures the daunting size of Ulupo Heiau, secluded by vegetation yet surrounded by tracts of housing. Another shows the majestic Konahuanui mountain peaks — with a barren drive-in theater in the foreground.
"This is our say on what’s happening in Kailua," said Landgraf, a photography and Hawaiian visual art instructor at Kapiolani Community College. "This is not just a bunch of pretty shots."
What’s happening not just in Kailua, but in the whole of Hawaii, they say, is that people today don’t know the original names of places around the islands.
"It’s tragic," said Hamasaki, a photography professor at Windward Community College. "When you lose the language, you lose so much culture. Those who changed the names don’t respect the indigenous culture."
"When I teach at KCC, I see that the new generation has no context for any Hawaiian names," Landgraf said. "If they say ‘Lanikai,’ I tell them that is the name given by the developer. Then I give them some history."
The images on the walls at Gallery Iolani are accompanied by detailed text from the book, providing original place names, a discussion of legends of the area, the area’s relevance in ancient Hawaii and some modern history. Sometimes the disparity between the contemporary image of a location and its ancient description is striking. For example, a photograph of a barely trickling stream reveals the decline of what once was a robust body of water that connected various streams.
Hamasaki and Landgraf tie these kinds of changes to the decline of cultural knowledge.
"If we can help people see the past and the relevance of these places, they’ll preserve them for the future," Hamasaki said.
"This is a simple idea," added Landgraf. "If we knew what was before, we would take more care now."