When the Hawai‘i Convention Center opened in 1998, it showcased a collection of murals, sculptures and other art valued at $1 million. As Victoria Holt Takamine walked through the imposing new facility, however, she noticed none of the featured artists were Native Hawaiian. Takamine, highly regarded in the Hawaiian community as the founder of Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima, a school of Hawaiian dance, felt a mix of shock, dismay, sadness and anger.
“The state had paid $1 million to artists to portray their view of Hawaii, and none of the original installations came from the perspective of a Native Hawaiian,” Takamine said. “Not one penny was spent to commission a Native Hawaiian artist.”
She sought new ideas to strengthen Native Hawaiians’ voice and presence, which are now being implemented through the nonprofit Pa‘i Foundation. As the organization’s executive director, Takamine oversees programs that fulfill its mission “to preserve and perpetuate Native Hawaiian arts and cultural traditions for future generations.”
Among them are classes that started at Salt at Our Kaka‘ako in February as part of Pa‘akai Marketplace. Held on the third Friday and Saturday of every month, the event also features live music and merchandise for sale by local artists and artisans.
IF YOU GO: PA‘I FOUNDATION’S CULTURAL CLASSES
>> Where: Pa‘akai Marketplace, Salt at Our Kaka‘ako, 691 Auahi St.
>> When: 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22
>> Cost: Free admission to the marketplace; $15-$80 fees for materials and instruction for some classes. Registration and payment for classes required; go to paifoundation.org/events. Two to four one-hour classes held per day; walk-ins may be allowed in some classes.
>> Phone: 844-2001
>> Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> Website: paifoundation.org
“The classes are kept small, to fit comfortably in the venue,” Takamine said. “That’s a plus because the instructors are able to give more personal attention to each student, and the group can socialize as they work on their project, perhaps making new friends in the process.”
Instructors are Native Hawaiian artists and cultural practitioners, the majority of whom are involved with the Pa‘i Foundation’s MAMo: Maoli Arts Movement program. From May through November next year, MAMo will put on art exhibits, wearable art shows and other events on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island. Admission to most will be free.
“To ensure quality, artists must apply to participate in MAMo every year,” said Ka‘iu Takamori, the Pa‘i Foundation’s folk arts coordinator. “Since I work closely with many of them for MAMo, it has been easy to schedule them for our Pa‘akai Marketplace classes, too.”
Such learning opportunities are rare. For example, farmer Danny Bishop discusses the significance of kalo (taro) to Hawaiians and the steps to create a kalo bed at home. His wife, Meala, explains how different varieties of kalo can be identified by their leaves and teaches students how to draw them.
Kapa (tapa) making, from tree stump to cloth, is the focus of Dalani Tanahy’s class, and Okalani Tallet teaches a winding technique to make a lei that can be worn either as a wristlet or around a hair bun or ponytail. After a session with carver Nalu Andrade, guests leave with a wooden konane (Hawaiian checkers) board or a bamboo stamp, hair pick or earrings.
“Umi Kai is a weapon maker who teaches people how to make cordage from hau bark,” Takamori said. “Many traditional weapons were lashed together with cordage. His wife, Leina‘ala, shows her class how to weave a lau hala bracelet.”
Takamori hopes to add featherwork, natural dyes and ukulele classes to the lineup next year. She is pleased to know the classes often have far-reaching effects.
ALSO AT SALT
>> Yoga in the Barn: 8:30 a.m. Dec. 22. Repeats on second and fourth Saturdays monthly. Free.
>> Bar Crawl: 5 p.m. Dec. 22. Visit Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, Pitch Sports Bar and Boiling Crab for drink specials and live entertainment. Collect stamps on Bar Crawl Passport to be eligible for prizes.
>> Yoga and Brunch: 9 a.m. usually the first Sunday of each month at the Barn. An hourlong yoga class accompanied by live music, followed by brunch and shopping (various vendors on hand). $25.
>> Visit: saltatkakaako.com/events
One of her friends moved to Alabama after her husband got a job there. In July, the woman and her three children returned to Oahu for a funeral but had time to check out Pa‘akai Marketplace. They attended every available class.
“Back home in Alabama, the kids play konane on the board that they made, they make lei from plants in their yard and they create interesting patterns on paper with their bamboo stamps,” Takamori said. “That’s what’s inspiring about our classes: They build cultural ties to Hawaii that remain strong, no matter how far away from the islands people might be.”