Lehuauakea, O Haumea Kino Pāhaʻohaʻo, 2021; Ochre pigment on kapa
Lehuauakea is a māhū mixed-Native Hawaiian interdisciplinary artist and kapa maker from Pāpaʻikou on Moku O Keawe, the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Through a range of traditional Kanaka Maoli craft-based media, their art addresses cultural and biological ecologies, Indigenous identity, and contemporary environmental degradation. With a focus on ʻohe kāpala (carved bamboo printing tools), kapa (bark cloth), and natural pigments, Lehuauakea breathes new life into patterns and traditions practiced for generations. The artist is currently based between the southwest and Pāpaʻikou after earning their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting with a minor in Art + Ecology at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA).
Lehuauakea seeks to address complex subjects of mixed identity and cultural erasure, Indigenous resilience, and ecological relationships through a contemporary Hawaiian lens. The patterns in their work are intergenerational, and serve as microcosmic representations of mythologies, origin stories, and environmental relationships since time immemorial. Bringing them into their practice allows this visual language to move and shift over time, remembering the ways of living that birthed them in the first place while incorporating contemporary narratives. At the core, the piko, of their practice are the inherent responsibilities that they have to their community. As this plays out through different modalities of sharing the process of making kapa with younger generations, dancing hula, learning and speaking their Indigenous language, advocating for issues that affect Native communities, and beyond – they ensure that kapa-making is much more than a studio practice. Ultimately, it is a way of being, a way of relation, and a way of life that works towards a communal goal of renewed sustainability and resilience as Native Hawaiian people.
This is an opportunity to put these intergenerational skills into practice to create a functional object that has both cultural and spiritual significance for our people that hasn’t been fully reawakened yet
—Lehuauakea (Kanaka Maoli/Native Hawaiian)
Lehuauakea’s LIFT project, E Hoʻāla Ka Lupe: To Awaken the Kite, is a project dedicated to the revival and recreation of traditional Native Hawaiian kites, or lupe. Addressing the overwhelming absence of information and limited old samples of our kites, this aims to begin bringing this craft practice back to our people using traditional construction methods and materials, including kapa (bark cloth), gathered fiber for cordage, and natural pigments. Following extensive research and model flight tests, the final kites will be flown by Native Hawaiian youth in the Pacific Northwest diaspora, who will also be shown the cultural significance and mythology surrounding traditional lupe.
Lehuauakea, Mana Māhū, 2020; Earth pigments and plant dyes on kapa
Lehuauakea, Kānekauilanuimakehaikalani, 2021; Ochre pigment and wildfire charcoal on kapa
Lehuauakea, EA EA EA, 2021; Ochre pigment and wildfire charcoal on kapa