On Friday, March 11, 2022, artists Cory Kamehanaokalā Holt Taum and Adaptations Dance Theater will collaboratively unveil their artistic interpretations of a recorded Talk Story between Clifford Naeʻole, Cultural Advisor at The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and Hōkūao Pellegrino, Sustainability & ʻĀina-Based Learning Designer & Facilitator of Kamehameha Schools Maui.
As the 19th installment of Wailuku Town's creative placemaking program, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA), each artist has been working with the ST*BA team and meeting with community consultants to further root their pieces in the history, culture and sense of place of Wailuku. A contemporary dance performance by Adaptations Dance Theater will take place at the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary Building Hoapili Hale courtyard at 2145 Main Street immediately following a blessing of Taum's mural piece at 2121 Main Street, which is the office building of Stephanie Ohigashi.
Recorded and edited by Akakū Maui Community Media studios, the conversation between Naeʻole and Pellegrino was a result of the 2021 ST*BA storytelling exchange led by artist and Kumu Hula Leilehua Yuen of Halau Hula Na Mohala Halai. Following a series of four workshops that took place between April and July, participants were paired up with community kūpuna to engage in an open Talk Story session with the goal of “capturing an authentic moment of connection”. Through further training with the StoryCorps DIY program, a collection of six recorded Talk Story excerpts became the basis for an RFP (request for proposals) wherein artists were asked to bring a story to life through a work of visual, performing or experiential public art.
This conversation between Naeʻole and Pellegrino drew the attention of exceptional applications by Jen Cox, Executive Director of the Maui-based Adaptations Dance Theater (ADT) and Cory Kamehanaokalā Holt Taum, an O‘ahu-based mural artist.
“One particularly striking parallel found in this story is when Naeʻole describes his grandfather's scoldings to listen to the forest, and to be open to what it has to say to you,” writes Cox, “this parallels what choreographers often ask of their dance audiences when viewing a performance - to stop the fast pace of our lives in order to enter the theater, take a break from the distractions, and be still; observe and feel what is being presented and shared with you. Acknowledge how you are affected by what you see through active observation. Even the oxymoron of "active observation'' itself is a concept that can be explored through dance.”
ADT dancers Hallie Hunt, Katie Istvan, Sarah Bauer and Jen Cox have selected I ka nānā no a ‘ike (by observing, one learns) from Mary Kawena Pukui's ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings to anchor their work, with choreographer Ali Pineo sharing "even our storytellers are observing – observing their life and memories from a distant perspective. As a result everyone learns more about the other and the self.”
Taum shares, “I could really relate to that particular conversation personally. In the beginning portion when they’re speaking on being in the bush in silence, I reflected on my own experiences and that similar mana‘o of being silent and observation. And I enjoyed, at the end of the discussion, the literal metaphor of the ʻoʻopu. Even though a lot of the ditches were turned into concrete, there was still perseverance and these natives could survive. That’s something that I could reflect on in my own life, thrive over survive. Persistence.” Taum is currently working with ST*BA partner Sissy Lake-Farm to identify the most fitting ‘Ōlelo No‘eau to help anchor his developing mural design.
Community consultations geared to further embed the history, culture and sense of place of Wailuku into the artwork have included Sissy Lake-Farm, Executive Director of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society; Sandy Kozaki, Ernest DeLima, and Marsha Yamada of the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary; Wallette Pellegrino, retired Associate Professor of Cooperative Education and host of ”Preserving Our Recollections” Oral History TV Program for University of Hawaiʻi Maui College; and Stephanie Ohigashi, International and Regional Partnerships Coordinator for the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College.
“I am so honored to play a role in the Small Town, Big Art Program,” says Ohigashi, who is donating the use of her office building at 2121 Main Street to host Taum’s developing mural, “to be able to share our building and our stories in our hometown is a dream come true."
Upon learning of the artists' intentions to create this collaborative work, Clifford Nae'ole wrote "Wow...wow...I am humbled. I again thank you for the opportunity to learn from Hōkūao. It was a great exchange of experiences from me (the artifact)...to him (the young gun.)”
Listen to the full conversation and learn more about this community collaboration at https://www.smalltownbig.org/cliff-hokuao.html