PUKALANI Kihei photographer Shane Tegarden has unveiled a unique, pre-contact experience of Hawaii titled "Ho'omana'o I Na Wa I Huliau" - Recall the Past Before the Turning.
The audiovisual presentation, which premiered Friday at the Kamehameha Schools Maui, merges picture, poetry, the purity of nose flute and the posing of kanaka maoli, or native people.
Motivated by reverence for the host culture, Tegarden has parlayed his camera skills into an art form he dubbed histography. The veteran photographer shot a series of 13 images. Computer guru Kawika Ki'ili and his colleagues used digital technology to remove all post-contact flora, fauna and construction from the photos. The resulting tableaux glow with color and the soulful sweep of history.
“Early dawn, the time of prayers, when the abundance of Kanaloa is laid out in the shallow places at the kahakai, the torchman comes looking for fish, the crabs, the lobsters, crustaceans, and with that he pins it down with his ihe kui pa‘a i‘a. This ritual has gone on for thousands of years and is an expectation of God’s love and embrace.”
— Sam Ka‘ai
More significantly, the histographic program provides a vehicle for the prose of carver Sam Ka'ai, a kupuna of East Maui. The prose reminds one of recording icon Bob Dylan's lyrics, except that Ka'ai straddles two languages: Hawaiian and English. Ka'ai takes commonplace words and injects a nimble turn of phrase and thought. The result is profound poetry.
Witness a passage accompanying an image of two women (Lei Ishikawa and U'i Naho'olewa) beating kapa:
"On the kapa they leave some designs to delight the imagination and tell a quiet story. This is Hina who pounds out tomorrow's clouds, Hina of the glistening moon, Hina that beats out the clouds of our tomorrows that will rain and Haumea will give off fruit. All of these things make women one with the creation, one with yesterday, one with today in the present, and one with tomorrow. E hana kapa - a noble thing."
Enhancing many segments is 'ohe hano ihu, or nose flute, music of Anthony Natividad, a longtime instrumentalist with the "'Ulalena" show. The notes are mellow and sometimes haunting, almost eerie. The pre-contact music lends a magical quality to the images and poetry.
As with things Hawaiian, this project was a collaboration. Kyle Nakanelua, Paul Keli'ikupakako and Solomon Pali are among the Maui residents who served as models. Their sinewy bodies, clad in loincloths, are seen in taro cultivation and other activities.
Motion and sound pervade the "Ho'omana'o I Na Wa I Huliau" tableaux. One sees 'iwa, or frigate birds, soaring; clouds sweeping and a torch flickering in the image of a predawn fisher (Ben Cordero). One hears the pounding of the kapa beaters and the clink of the adz maker's tool against stone.
The "Ho'omana'o" experience also evokes vicarious sensory experiences: the brush of breezes rustling through emerald-green kalo leaves; the bone-chilling cold felt by the adz maker (Hoaka Delos Reyes), clothed in a ti-leaf cape while working on the slopes of Mauna Kea. One smells the sweat of poi pounders ('Iokewe Lono and Kekaha Lono); then samples their sweet pa'i 'ai, or freshly beaten poi.
Fortunately for the public, the free presentation will repeat at 7 p.m. three times: Friday at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua; Dec. 12 at The Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, Maui; and Jan. 23 at Ka'anapali Beach Hotel.
Tegarden, a 22-year Kihei Canoe Club steersman, deserves kudos for getting all the participants and facets into one canoe for a remarkable journey.
One should experience "Ho'omana'o" at least twice. After a first viewing ends, walk onstage, peruse the still images and read the accompanying poetry. Then, go again later to appreciate more fully the kaona, or layered meanings. After all, Hawaiian culture is one of circular, not linear, time; where dreams are as valid as reality; where oral history was chanted repeatedly, until integrated into one's own history.
I was a bit unnerved by the grainy resolution of close-up views of the panoramas. Also, digital removal of post-contact flora notwithstanding, was the grass adjacent to lo'i kalo, or taro patches, pre-contact?
But these hiccups were more than offset by a souvenir poster: an ideal Makahiki gift incorporating gemlike imagery and scintillating poetry in Hawaiian and English, for the unlikely price of $10. Buy several. n Kekoa Enomoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.