[sidebar] Maoli Art in Real Time is only up until Thursday, August 25 at 6 p.m. at Hawai‘i Convention Center, Molokai Room 315. After that, your best shot at seeing the art is at ‘Aulani itself, or at Na Mea books.
Native Hawaiian contemporary art is in bloom. For just two days, from August 23 to August 25 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, the public can take a good look at the work of several modern cultural practitioners. Viewers can also catch a sneak peek at the developmental work created for ‘Aulani, Disney’s massive Ko Olina development.
Maoli Art in Real Time is in its second year, and this year the event has something special to celebrate. A few years ago, when ‘Aulani was green lit on the westside of O‘ahu, the skepticals among us had the sinking feeling that Disney executives would stamp the resort with their Googled, kitschy, outdated ideas of Hawaiian art. Based on the company’s past, the eye-rollers foresaw an extension of several decades’ worth of bland mischaracterization of culture, or what sociologists came to call “Disney-ification.” If you went to Disneyland in Anaheim any time from 1963 to the present, you could foresee that the Ko Olina multi-million dollar, bloated tourist trap would end up as a large Enchanted Tiki Room, with a theme song as horrid as it is catchy.
Somehow though, the media conglomerate has gotten with the 21st-century program. Disney has commissioned over a dozen Hawaiian artists to represent the culture appropriately, apparently even paying them what they are worth. ‘Aulani will house the largest collection of contemporary Hawaiian art in the world, and the resort will be the better for it. If the mock-ups on display are any indication, the skeptics among us may still find fault, but it will not be in the art.
This showing deserves a broader discussion regarding the blooming of native Hawaiian artists, indigenous contemporary creativity, and the ability to make a living as a non-commercial creator in the Pacific (i.e. more discussion than this manini blog can accomodate). But one needs not delve into such issues to enjoy the work. Solomon Enos’ various contributions are truly inspiring. His work has been elevated by the grandness of the challenge. Doug Po’oloa Tolentino’s new paintings conjure all the magic (yes, magic) of the Cinderella or Pinocchio that played repeatedly from bulky plastic VHS boxes when we were kids. These, and several other artists, have found a way to be both commercial and true, and the work done on behalf of Disney is not out of place in the room next to handmade ipus, pu‘ili sticks and pahus. Although a tad bit slicker, the commissioned ‘Aulani artwork feels justifiably Hawaiian.
Maoli Art in Real Time (MAiRT) also features:
• The starting point for HAWAI’I LOA KU LIKE KAKOU, a Hawaiian-inspired
community mural project on indigenous economics
• Na Pualei o Likolehua under the direction of Kumu Hula Leina`ala Ka-
lama Heine proudly presents – Hula: A Living Practice
• Contemporary Native Hawaiian art and sculpture
• Traditional practitioners demonstrating during the reception