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Faces of Merrie Monarch: the Arts Fair

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  • Keaau artist Myles Sumida, a painter, woodworker and ukulele maker, operates Hurricane Ukuleles and Ninja Framing.
  • This beautiful ukulele created by Myles Sumida incorporates rare woods; it is not for sale.
  • "Tita" Aiwohi of Kea‘au, a maker of ipu, or Hawaiian drumming gourds. Her business is called Na Mea Ipu o Tita.
  • A closer look at a Na Mea Ipu a Tita creation.
  • Kathy Long of Kamuela, daughter of well-known Hawaii artist Mary Koski, holds a print of her mother's work. Mary Koski, whose work is widely displayed throughout Hawaii, died just last year.
  • Bertil Long, Mary Koski's son-in-law, shows off one of her works. "I always say I was the model, but no one believes me," he joked.

Aloha! Let me introduce you to some of the artists at the Merrie Monarch Invitational Arts Fair.

I found many beautiful objects at the fair, but found myself attracted to those made of wood and natural materials, and to paintings that reminded me of the beauty and resilience of Hawaii and Hawaiian people.

Tita Aiwohi, barefoot in her booth surrounded by polished blonde and brown ipu, said the fair has been “crazy,” but worthwhile. She was preparing herself for the rush of buyers who come to booths in the final hours of the fair.

Ukulele maker Myles Sumida makes instruments that literally glow. On display at the festival, he showed me a gorgeous ukulele that is not for sale. Incorporating bands of rare woods, it radiates elegance.

Sumida also paints — country scenes, reflecting his Keaau home. He told me that he is happy to live in a quiet place, and smiled sympathetically at the thought of my home in hustling Honolulu.

Kathy and Bertil Long have been holding down a booth at the Merrie Monarch arts fair for 15 years. They sell prints of works by Kathy Long and Kathy’s mother Mary Koski, whose work is widely displayed throughout Hawaii. Koski lived next door to the Longs for decades in Kamuela, and the Longs love to speak of her and of their island home.

In 2001, Long created the poster image for Merrie Monarch. Bertil Long showed me the print at the arts fair this year. Long also specializes in images of hula and Hawaiian scenes, depicting halau at Kilauea and prepared to dance. In 2005, she was retained by the Hawaii Visitor Bureau to create a poster image to promote Hawaii island. Her work, “Hula Sisters,” has dancers each facing different compass points, extending their hand in an oli aloha to welcome people to Hawaii, home of hula.

I had a wonderful time talking to Hilo’s Eli Miura, who offers his hand-shaped lomi sticks for Hawaiian massage, canes, bamboo walking sticks and nose flutes at the fair.

You can see video of Miura showing his “pride and joy” — the walking sticks — at

Miura also practices acupressure massage, and he demonstrated the use of a hand-sized massage stick on me. Just a few seconds of rolling it between my hands helped to relax the muscles in my wrist and fingers, tightened from using a computer’s keyboard.

On that note, I think I’ll take a walk in the Volcano rain forest, before returning to Hilo for tonight’s Merrie Monarch hula competition. The birds are calling outside my cabin window!


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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