Politics, art share MAMo runway
In Hawaii, fashion and politics rarely mix. But during the Maoli Arts Month's annual MAMo Wearable Art Show, they came together in a dramatic way.
Robert Cazimero and his Halau Na Kamalei led the May 20 event with a performance calling attention to the Mauna Kea telescope controversy, with dancers forming the shape of the mountain by touching their thumbs and fingertips together. It became a symbol for the first half of the show, with many of the models embracing the gesture during their finale walks in a symbol of solidarity.
Though I am not Native Hawaiian, I couldn't help be moved by the gesture. The Mauna Kea issue is something I've thought about while driving around and looking at the landscape. It's evident the ancient Hawaiians were brilliant engineers.
Today we still see ancient fishponds that, with proper tending, continue to function as intended. And Hawaiians created the ahupua'a system of land division that took into account the interrelationship of elements in the natural landscape that would optimize self-sustainability.
The wisdom of such a division is obvious when I watch the water runoff from rain, which doesn't follow manmade roads, but the natural geography of the land in defiance of Western engineers. In spite of their education, the western waywardness is like that of a spoiled child insisting, "This is what I want to do, and I'm going to do it," with little consideration for long-term consequences.
The ahupua'a system was able to sustain, what I've read, was a pre-contact population of 1 million people, about the same as we have in the islands today.
I wonder how we got to this point of importing our food supply and question the current irresponsibility of developing prime agricultural land when obviously, food supply will continue to become a more pressing concern as time passes.
Today we are looking at California running out of the water, 80 percent of which goes toward the agricultural industry that feeds much of the nation.
Developers smugly take a "not in my lifetime" approach to their work, but unfortunately, the reality of the California situation is that we're looking at a matter of a decade.
I believe that ancient Hawaiians were not against the kind of engineering and advancement that considered the welfare of all. There is a pono solution to Mauna Kea if both sides are willing to come together to speak about the facts and their differences instead of fighting.
Beyond politics, the event offered a lively showcase of what is being done not only by Hawaii's artists, designers and cultural practitioners, but a handful of Maori artists as well.
I was particularly enamored by those created by Maori couture designer Shona Tawhiao, who takes native basket weaving and materials to avant garde heights. Her designs were dark, edgy and breathtaking. Elements reminded me of Alexander McQueen and the head gear created for him by Philip Treacy.
As always, many of the shows featured live music accompaniment, and hosts Robert Cazimero and Vicky Holt Takamine kept the audience laughing all evening. If not for their more serious kumu hula careers, they would have easily found success as a comedy duo.
And, halfway through the proceedings, the First People's organization honored tattoo artist Keone Nunes for his fidelity to traditional practice of the art form, tapping ink into the skin with homemade moli (instruments).
Check out video from the event below.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.