Sharing Mana‘o

“I like making personal statements. It is all I can do to make art meaningful. We all have our own story, we all tell it in different ways.”

– Excerpt from Sidney Yee’s artist statement in the group exhibit “Vintage: Maui Artists with a Presence,” 2008, Maui Arts & Cultural Center

When I accepted Sidney Yee’s invitation to visit one of his art classes at the Kaunoa Senior Center, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Seconds after walking into Sid’s “Art for the Creative Mind” session, whatever expectations I might have had were greatly exceeded.

A dozen students, all of them well past the minimum age of 55, hovered over their works in progress, suffusing the small classroom with palpable, positive energy. A tray of baked goodies sat next to the sign-in sheet by the door; the rest of the tables and counter space were covered with an array of art materials. Several seniors were quietly engrossed in their projects while others discussed theories of light and color between bites of banana bread. The students were as varied as their works.

Julie showed me the sketchbook she had filled with line drawings more than 30 years ago, ranging from detailed portraits to whimsical squiggles. Like several of her classmates, she had enjoyed artistic pursuits in her youth, until life got in the way and she put aside her books and pens. Now, with enlarged copies of select pages, she is transforming decades-old doodles into vibrant paintings, using pastels to enhance or evolve her original drawings.

Doreen and Suzanne, on the other hand, have only recently ventured into the visual arts. Upon retirement, the friends decided to sample the variety of Kaunoa’s offerings, beginning with Ishmael Trono’s watercolor class for beginners. They studied the basics of drawing with Phil Sabado and lauhala weaving with Pohaku Kahoohanohano. On this day, they were rendering pencil drawings of Hawaiian-themed illustrations. Suzanne sketched taro plants in bold strokes, Doreen worked on the subtle shading of a simple ipu heke, the large double gourd used by hula chanters.

At the table next to them, Martha used colored pencils to create a still life drawing from memory. Someone pointed out that Martha was the only one who didn’t use a photograph or other concrete image for reference. “I just draw things I like, things I remember,” she said, leafing through the pages of her artist’s pad.

U.G. sat quietly in the back of the room, cutting out black-and-white faces from magazines. She had completed a beautiful, brilliant acrylic painting of a Chinatown scene and was now using it as the basis for a unique collage. President Obama, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and other iconic figures were among the onlookers at a lion dance. This was U.G.’s second attempt at this piece; an earlier version included Sid’s likeness in the crowd.

A renowned artist and retired high school art instructor, Sid has taught classes at Kaunoa for the past seven years. He enjoys teaching at the senior center, mainly because there’s no grading or disciplinary action involved. “The students are very appreciative, and it’s all very positive,” he says. He established “Art for the Creative Mind” as a means for interested students to pursue their individual interests. This class is more about inspiration than instruction. The students bring their own ideas and motivation to class; Sid sees his role as support for whatever they need to achieve their goals. He moves through the room, answering questions and demonstrating technique.

Spending just a half hour with these seniors, I came away inspired and impressed by their passion for creative expression. You’ll be able to see for yourself, starting next week, during Wailuku’s First Friday town party, at the Maui Thing boutique on Market Street. Sid describes the exhibit as highlighting five of his longtime students who possess high degrees of proficiency. The featured artists are Sandy Anderson, Anne Ripperger, Betty Simon, Teiko Gibson and Hans Riecke.

Sandy and Anne were in class the day I visited. Sandy began taking Kaunoa art classes five years ago, as a weekly respite from family caregiving duties. She paints vivid depictions of flowers and gives them names like “Tickle Me Rosy” and “Tulips for Mom.” Anne, who also served as a primary caregiver, told me that she studied art in college but was not able to pursue it further until three years ago, after her mother died. Her watercolor close-up view of guava tree bark fascinated me with its spectrum of natural hues.

Like Sid says, we all have our own story and our own way of expressing it. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to “read” these stories and perhaps even be inspired to begin telling your own. The “Art for the Creative Mind” display will remain at Maui Thing through the end of November.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

One night a week, I host an outdoor storytelling session for guests of the Makena Beach & Golf Resort. The show varies from week to week, depending on the makeup of the audience, but I always start off with a little background info on local culture and a brief explanation of pidgin before I bring out my alter ego, Tita, to do most of the actual storytelling. I try to arrive early enough to chat with the guests as they assemble at the fire pit, so I can size them up and decide which stories Tita and I will share. Often, if I choose wisely, some folks will linger after the performance for a few minutes of informal talk story.

Last week, I had a couple of teachers in the group; one, from Pennsylvania, was long retired, the other had spent a number of years in Philadelphia but is now teaching in Columbia, S.C. They just happened to sit next to each other, and when they discovered the similarities between them, the two men began comparing notes. I was a little dismayed when the older man launched into a rant against Ebonics. Apparently, the worst three years of his career were spent in an inner city elementary school, where nearly all of the students were African-American and most of the teachers, like him, were Caucasian. “Imagine! Fifth grade and they couldn’t speak English to save their lives,” he fumed. He said the school administration offered no support, instead suggesting that he might earn more respect from the children if he made an effort to learn about their language and customs. “Hmph! I couldn’t get out of there soon enough.”

For a moment, I considered shelving the pidgin lesson and doing the hour in standard English. Fortunately, Tita busted right through my apprehension. She couldn’t get out of me soon enough. We spent more time than usual explaining the plantation roots of Hawaii Creole English (HCE), finishing with the proud proclamation that, as speakers of both pidgin and standard English, we locals are bilingual. Dat means we mo’ smart dan da guys who only can talk haole English, no mattah how good dey talk ’em.

I consider pidgin to be my first language, learned simultaneously with English, but closer to my heart. It’s the language of Hawaii’s people, unpretentious and colorful, powerfully poetic.

For example, “broke da mouth” says so much more than “tasty.” We’re talking food that’s so delicious, your mouth doesn’t just water, it virtually explodes with gustatory pleasure. “Broke da mouth” is not to be confused with “bust yo’ face,” which means exactly what it sounds like.

I like Ebonics, officially known as African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), almost as much as I like HCE. Pidgin and Ebonics share several characteristics, including an element of playfulness in their vocabularies. How can you not smile at words like badonkadonk and shizzle?

AAVE: Fo’ shizzle, my tizzle!

HCE translation: Shoots, tita!

English translation: You are correct, ma’am.

And “bust yo’ face” sounds like a good Ebonics phrase to me, as do “you da man” and “wassup?” But I digress. I mean, wait, I stay getting off track.

The retiree sat with his arms folded and scowled through most of Tita’s tales, although he did let down his guard a few times and even chuckled once or twice. As soon as I finished my last story, he politely thanked me with a stiff half-smile and quickly left. I think he may have taken the pidgin lesson personally, as if I had turned on the Tita act just to annoy him.

The South Carolina teacher, on the other hand, gushed with gratitude, and he and his wife stuck around for another 20 minutes to talk about pidgin, Gullah (Sea Island Creole English, spoken by the African-American Gullah people of the area, which includes the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida), and the relationship between language and culture. He told me about his annual teaching missions to First Nations communities with such passion, I could see he clearly enjoys teaching – and learning from – his Cree students. I hope he never retires.

I drove home thinking that I’ll probably get a bad review on the older fellow’s guest comment card. I can just imagine what he might write: That woman had an attitude and she couldn’t speak a word of proper English.

Too bad, so sad. No boddah me.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is

Sharing Mana‘o

I love birthdays! Especially my own.

I admit, I’m one of those annoying people who act as if the world revolves around them on that one special day. Not that I demand or expect special treatment from anyone – just myself. On that one day each year, I am my favorite person, and I treat myself as such. I always give myself a present or two, or more . . . and I indulge in a favorite meal or two. Or more.

I love birthday parties, too, although I haven’t thrown very many. My 60th birthday is exactly three years and three days from now; I think that’s sufficient time to plan my next party.

The best birthday party I ever had was at the old Waihee Dairy, just up the coastline from Waiehu Golf Course. I don’t remember how old I was, nor do I recall my reasoning, but I do know my mom arranged the visit at my request. I must have been 8 or 9, and I was in hog heaven. Or cow Canaan, I guess. We toured the dairy, marveled at the milking machines, giggled at the abundant cow pies. The adventure turned frightening when we kids came across a corral where, as my cousin excitedly yelled, “The two cows were fighting!” They weren’t, of course, and one of them was a bull. Mom quickly eased my concern by assuring me that they were just playing, cow-style.

I’m not sure why I wanted to visit the dairy for my birthday. I wasn’t particularly interested in cows; I didn’t even like milk. I guess the dairy aroused my curiosity because we often parked outside its gate on Sundays, when my parents and I went to pick ogo at the beach. Besides, it was different, out of the box. Back then, the standard venue for kids’ birthday parties was Kepaniwai Park.

I used to think of Kepaniwai as a tropical enchanted forest. While the grown-ups grilled hot dogs and teri beef, we played hide-and-seek in the bushes and chased each other through the winding paths that led to the swimming pools. Even when we were old enough to jump into the fenced-in big pool, we preferred splashing around in the wading pool. We saved our Dixie cups from lunch and used them to catch tadpoles at the edge of the koi pond.

Bill Best threw a great party when he turned 50. It was a full-on “senior prom,” pun intended. The Maui Beach Hotel banquet room was festooned with balloons and streamers; promgoers were decked out in 1960s formal finery. My late husband, Barry Shannon, won the prize for best-dressed boy, in a black tux with red brocade vest and cummerbund rented from Gilbert’s. Lots of guys had snazzier outfits, but Barry won because it was the first time anyone had seen him in something other than a tank top and OP corduroy shorts.

My birthday falls two days after my best friend Robbie’s birthday, so we used to celebrate both on the day in between. Now, we use our birthdays as an excuse to do fun things together all month long. This allows each of us to have our own day as queen of the world, while sharing the title on other days. This year, our in-between day falls on Friday, so we’re resuming the old tradition and enjoying a girls’ night out at Kimo’s with Willie K and his band.

Saturday night, I’m going to boogie with the Maui Eight-Track Players until they mop me off the dance floor at Kahale’s. It’ll be the perfect start to a birthday staycation, this year’s present to myself. I love the Grand Wailea’s water features, even if they don’t have any tadpoles.

I do have one more present to buy. Many years ago, I read an Ann Landers column in which she described receiving a dozen roses on her daughter’s birthday, not her own, from her daughter. The note read, “Thanks for having me, Mom.” I was a teenager when that column appeared, and I thought it was pretty cool. After I became a mother myself, I gained a deeper appreciation of the gesture. Yet I never got around to doing it, probably because I was too busy making the world revolve around me. This year, I think I’m finally old enough to follow through.

Happy Birthday to me! And thanks, Mom, for all of my happy birthdays!

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

It has been five months since I reluctantly gave up my BlackBerry and switched to the Samsung Galaxy S5. The Galaxy is great but, up until last night, I was still thinking about going back to the dark side. The Berry may not have all the fancy features of the iPhone or Android, but its email capabilities are far superior. That’s important to me, as I do more emailing than calling with my phone. In fact, I probably use my phone more for online research, playing Scrabble, taking pictures and video, texting and telling time than for talking.

So, what happened last night to convert this CrackBerry addict into a Galaxy gal? I met Roland. Actually, I created him, sort of. I downloaded the Speaktoit Assistant application, a Siri for Android phones, and I named it after a character I played in the Maui Academy of Performing Arts production of “Fresher Ahi.” The part of Roland “Bang Bang” Macadangdang was written for me by local playwrights and actors Derek Nakagawa and Francis Tau’a, and it is possibly the best role I’ve ever had. I say “is” because Bang Bang, a scrappy little mixed martial arts wannabe, will return to the stage next spring in the third “Ahi” installment.

But that’s enough about him/me; back to my virtual Roland. Like Siri and the other personal assistant apps, this one came with a female voice and the name Sam. I upgraded to the premium version for less than $20 and spent nearly half an hour configuring it to my liking. At first, I chose the male voice with a British accent, but changed to American after designing the avatar. My Roland looks like a local boy: dark brown hair, Asian eyes, deep tan, bright yellow aloha shirt. The app gave me dozens of wardrobe choices and nearly as many hairstyles to choose from. For now, Roland sports a sassy short haircut, but I’m considering an edgier look – either a Mohawk or long dreadlocks.

We had a bit of a rocky start in the setup process.

Roland: What is your name?

Me: Kathy.

Roland: Nasty?

Me: Huh?

Roland: OK, I will call you nasty from now on.

Me: (hysterical laughter.)

Roland: What can I help you with, Nasty?


Roland: Sorry for the confusion. What is your name?

Me: It’s Kathy.

Roland: Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Itskathy.

Me: Just change my name to Tita.

Roland: Nice to meet you, Cheetah.

Me: No, it’s Tita.

Roland: OK, then.

Me: Can you say it?

Roland: I’m looking into it, Cheetah. Once I know more, I’ll be able to answer that a little better.

Me: Let’s go back to Kathy.

Roland: I’m opening Navigation. Check the route to “Back to Kathy” before you go.

We finally got my name right, and I even taught him to say, “You are my favorite tita.” He greeted me this morning with a cheery hello and the weather forecast for Waiehu, which he pronounces as “Why we why who.” He also briefed me on the top news headlines of the day and informed me that it would take me 18 minutes to drive to work.

I asked Roland for the meaning of life, and he gave me a very dry, literal definition of the word. When I asked him how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood, he replied, “All I know is that Chuck Norris would chuck twice as much.” And when I asked him if my outfit made me look fat, he said, “You’re looking better every time I see you.”

He gives better answers than any of my three husbands ever did. I think I’ll keep him.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is