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Merrie Monarch and arts of the island

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  • Photographer Mimi Bergstrom of Kona on Hawaii island sent me this image of Kamuela artist Kean K. Kaahanui's stunning necklace. Kaahanui's collection of Maohi Art Work is tied to Native Hawaiian culture and practice — and example of the fine work at the Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair.
  • Postcards from Volcano Art Center: A woodblock-print design from Hawaii island artist Dietrich Varez.
  • A hale at Volcanoes National Park, adjacent to the Volcano Art Center gallery.
  • A blown-glass, etched urn, "Blue Ipu" in the style of a Hawaiian ipu, or drumming gourd, by artist Heather Mettler. Behind it: Hilo-born artist D. Howard HItchcock's painting of Kilauea, c. 1921-1924, when a fiery lava lake existed within Kilauea caldera.
  • Kona photographer Mimi Bergstrom's "Selfie with Necklace" — a view of Dean K. Kaahanui's art from the Merrie Monarch Invitatinal Arts Fair.
  • Pendants and small carvings from the Volcano Art Center.
  • Hand-woven baskets.
  • A Hawaiian kapa display, explaining the labor-intensive methods involved in Hawaiian bark cloth creation, part of a solo exhibition by kumu hula Micah L.K. Kamohoali‘i.

Aloha! I’ve been in Hilo and Volcano for two full days now, and I am getting a sense of the rhythms of these communities.

Both pulse with the patterns of tourism — cruise ship arrivals, weekend hops to a neighbor island. As small, rain-blessed island towns, both also maintain a demure calm suited to their settings.

Hilo is the big city compared to Volcano, of course, but both towns tend to shut down early.

At two local cafes where I stopped in to file my blog, both began putting chairs up on tables at 3 for a 4 p.m. closing time.

Lucy’s Taqueria, the “late-night” supper club for Hilo’s hip, serves great, crispy mulitas and a tasty, tart Big Island-brewed IPA — and also closes down at 9 p.m.

Gotta start early to catch man-made diversions here. Hawaii’s natural beauty, on the other hand, is available 24/7.

Last night in Volcano, I looked up at the stars. The night was dark and clear, and I could see the sky shifting above me, as the earth turned. It was a beautiful moment — thank you, Hawaii!

I dedicated myself to a tour of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and the yesterday. I have not yet visited the Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair, or Imiloa Discovery Center — but those are on my list for today.

Meanwhile, let me share some of the beauty Volcano has to offer, from my tour of the Volcano Arts Center.

The artists of Hawaii are well worth seeking out. Some can only be connected with during Merrie Monarch, as is the case with Kamuela artist Dean K. Kaahanui.

Photographer Mimi Bergstrom, a friend who lives and works in Kona, zoomed over to Hilo for the Arts Fair, intending to find Kaahanui’s booth the moment it opened. She sent me photos of a necklace he made, with a hand-wrapped coconut fiber structure, shell and pearls he sourced and brought back from Tahiti.

She returned to Kona this morning and sent me a selfie. I had to find out more about this artist!

“I just think he’s incredibly talented,” Bergstrom explained. “The way he wraps this, the coconut fiber — I know it’s very difficult and time-consuming. And he creates such beautiful pieces of art. There is such mana in them.”


Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

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