AAP staff report
HILO, Hawai‘i (July 23, 2019) — A diverse group of storytellers came together July 18 in downtown Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi for an enchanting celebration of words and music in “Evoking Islands: An evening of Hawaiʻi song, poetry and prose at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center.”
The program was curated by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang and inspired by the archipelago’s talk story heritage and deep relationship to Hawaii’s natural wonders and enduring cultural traditions in this time of climate crisis and political turmoil.
Four unique voices came together to evoke the islands, opening with Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Keaau-based prose poet, essayist, and University of Hawaiʻi Hilo creative writing lecturer who read prose poems from her chapbook, “Where the Lava Meets the Sea,” about many Big Island locations that have disappeared due to recent volcanic eruptions.
Then Tom Peek, Volcano-based writer and former eruption ranger, read from his award-winning novel that takes place on Big Island, “Daughters of Fire.” After that, Leomi Bergknut, a Hilo-born writer of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Korean ancestry read several poems in pidgin about local topics like stink eye and how to cook rice.
Finally, Patrick Kahakauwila Kamaholelani Landeza, award-winning slack key artist and winner of the 2019 Na Hoku Hanohano Kiho‘alo Legacy Award, performed slack key and talked story about growing up Hawaiian on the mainland, drawing from his memoir, “From The Island of Berkeley, Memoirs From A California-Born Hawaiian.”
For Q&A, the writers were joined by Catherine Robbins, Volcano-based visual artist and former eruption ranger whose work is shown and collected internationally, including an upcoming show at Volcano Art Center.
As the event took place on the day after 33 Native Hawaiian elders were arrested on Mauna Kea for protesting the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), the protectors and the sacred mountain were on the artists’ and audience’s minds, as reflected in their poems, stories, and songs.
Mokupāpapa Discovery Center vividly interprets the science, culture, and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the largest contiguous, fully-protected conservation area in the US and one of the world’s largest marine conservation areas. Housed in Hilo’s century-old Koehnen Building, Mokupāpapa features a saltwater aquarium, educational exhibits (many presented in both Hawaiian and English), life-size wildlife models and stunning artwork inspired by those islands and Hawaiian culture. Mokupāpapa Discovery Center is located at 76 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo.