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Nā Māla: Layered Landscapes of Kona Coffee Heritage

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

The Donkey Mill Art Center is honored to present the exhibition Nā Māla: Layered Landscapes of Kona Coffee Heritage featuring works by local artists exploring the layered natural, cultural and agricultural landscapes of our precious home. From the generous and extensive māla, or gardens, of Kona’s mahiʻai (farmers), to the opportunities the ‘āina provided to Kona’s coffee families, artworks featured explore interconnected elements of nā māla which continue to create and sustain growth and abundance in Kona today.

Donkey Mill's first ever curator, Mina Elison, brought together a vibrant group of creatives to represent the abundance of Kona, Hawaii. I'm honored and grateful that Mina invited me to submit work to the show, and to be able to exhibit work with other talented artists in Hawaii. Diverse in mediums, diverse in ethnicities, diverse in consciousness, Nā Māla isn't just a show, it's a space to connect with Kona outside the realm of tourism. Each piece was a window to personal memory and intimate experiences with the Hawaiian landscape. Themes of generational farming, timeless tools, climate change, native plants, and sustainability were cross-interpreted among all the artist works, establishing a strong conversation of how the community should continue to nurture and respect this delicate landscape. And at such times of uncertainty among this pandemic, Mina and Miho (DMAC Program Director) were able to facilitate an intimate gathering of the artists through ZOOM and give us an opportunity to talk about our work and inspirations. Mahalo nui to the staff at Donkey Mill Art Center for bringing us together!

I submitted an installation called The Divine Balance of Sisterhood, 2020. My inspiration draws from my experience at the Mauna Kea Protest. I met an elder who taught me to interact with the landscape and the community through the lenses of Hawaiian mythology. The stories of Pele's destructive fire and Hi'iaka's power of resurrection, depict a divine balance of the deconstruction and reconstruction of the layered landscape of Kona. The materials of the books represent the characteristics of the individual sisters' natures, specifically, how the weight of their influence balances the scales between death and rebirth. If one were to take more than needed, or never give back to this divine balance, the scales would fall to a consequential extreme. In the wake of human advancement, their stories remind us of our responsibility to allow parts of ourselves to decompose in order to nurture healthy growth.

The Goddess Pele has been associated with destruction, but like natural forest fires, decomposition is important for the cycle of life. In conjunction to human advancement, parts of our influence counteract with the health of our habitats, and we need to revisit our intentions in the realms of technologic and financial advancement. Our extended lifespans have carved a new era of human domination called the anthropocene, where we greatly influence the longevity of our planet. Pele reminds me to burn, burn, burn the greed, burn the borders, burn disillusioned realities. Deconstruct a conditioned system and put it together again that give access to the people. Nurture it for healthy growth. Relearn the village system, discontinue the feudalism. Hi'iaka reminds me to be a good ancestor. Start today and water the roots for the future. Scoop death into my hands like nutrients and fertilizer. I am a sapling growing, growing, growing to provide breath, shade, food, and love.

I've put these philosophies into practice in my everyday life. Composting my food for the plants that provide food. Collecting dry grass for my chicken's coop. Utilizing my chicken's manure for fertilizer for my vegetables. Collecting extra rainwater in cups for my garden. Eating seasonally. Living off-grid with solar and raincatchment. Responding to homeless individuals on craiglist with links to possible rentals. Referencing job opportunities to the unemployed. Sacrificing unsustainable comfort. Picking up trash on the beach and throwing it into my truck. Upcycling "trash" for material. Repurposing trash. Doing-it-myself projects. Buying local. Barter-and-exchange. Sometimes, when we wanna take on the larger problems of the world, it's daunting to take control and create a solution for a billion people. But to start small, everyday, in your immediate community does make a difference. To start a difference is to start in your personal life. Whether it's your diet, your career, your lifestyle, we always have a choice to nurture ourselves and our community.


On-view: Saturday, October 24 - Saturday, December 12, 2020 during gallery hours Wednesday - Saturday from 10:00am - 4:00pm

Location: DONKEY MILL ART CENTER, Holualoa, Hawaii

Online Artist Exhibition Walkthrough: LINK


Kealaokeakua, 2020 by James Kanani Kaulukukui Jr.

Winds (Quiet, Sentient, Moon), 2020 by Tara Cronin

Winter Squash, Bitter Melons, and Winged Beans, 2020 by Gerald Lucena

Kokole, 2020 by Jesse Kekoa Kahoonei

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