I’m not an activist or anything, but I am a Native Hawaiian. Kanaka Maoli. And although I’d like to think our people have made some strides in reclaiming our identity, there are times like now when I believe we’re not necessarily making a stride, but rather taking baby steps – not a bad thing, but not a great thing either.
At times I find myself wanting to incorporate my Hawaiian identity in my work, however, I am afraid to do so out of fear of ridicule by my fellow Hawaiians. Today, I’m deciding to do what I want and to not let the naysayers keep me from incorporating my culture into my work. I am going to start making connections with knowledgeable Hawaiians that have the same goals as I do – to bring our culture into a positive light and to inspire others to learn and be inspired about our culture and lifestyle.
The first project that I’m going to dedicate myself to is one that I hold dear to my heart. I’m going to call it Project ‘Ōlelo. This project will be inspired by Mary Kawena Pukuʻi’s book: ‘Ōlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings. Most locals know what ʻōlelo noʻeau is so I believe that this is a great starting point to sharing the Hawaiian language. After all, “I ka ‘ōlelo nō ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make – In language there is life, in language there is death.” The beauty of this ʻōlelo noʻeau is that it is both a warning and instruction: perpetuate your language, and your culture will live and flourish – forget your language and your culture will die. Language is everything. Its how cultures pass down their knowledge. Without it, all is lost.
I plan to visually interpret each ʻōlelo noʻeau in this book until I have a compilation of all 2,941+ proverbs. This project will obviously take a really long time (I mean, I could finish the whole book if I did 8 or 9 every day for 365 days straight… but come on, is that realistic?) but I plan on reflecting with each ʻōlelo noʻeau and doing it justice. Iʻm not going to commit to doing a certain amount every day, or having it look a certain way – maybe an illustration will come of it, or perhaps it may just be a hand lettering of sorts. I’m not sure, but I’d like to let this project have some room to grow.
Hopefully others will be inspired by this project – I know I will.