Guided only by legend, a few dozen refugees sailed in an outrigger canoe from Bora Bora some 2000 miles across the Pacific, to finally arrive at what is now known as the Hawaiian islands. After enduring endless trials and several months at sea, they were greeted by the sight of the volcano goddess Pele erupting in her full majesty. Despite/and or due to the urging of my curator/ owner/ boss of the Art House Studio/ Gallery it is my first Hawaiian inspired painting. I had actually begun this painting several months before I moved to Hawaii while packing up our home in Austin and listening to Michener’s audio book version of his epic novel Hawaii. I was trying to use up the last of my fabric collection and leftover paints that were not traveling with us.
After Pele, (Volcanic Goddess) she is very real in Hawaii, pretty much kicked us off the Big island, we island hopped through the Hawaiian archipelago until we finally settled on the isle of Kauai. I had several pre packed un stretched canvases shipped here where I was able to finish The Migration.
It is named The Migration According to Michener becauseno one really knows what happened on that boat. And I didn’t have five years to research it.
In the first weeks of 2012, it rained for days, causing massive flooding in Kauai. Thousands of trees were washed down the Waimea canyon and choked the shoreline with debris. A week before the annual Waimea Days festival began, the community rallied, clean up crews were implemented, and massive bonfires lit. Our early morning beach walk was transformed from the driftwood wreckage to the start line for the outrigger race.
Whether in search of adventure or asylum, all peoples must migrate. The journey they embark on is often fraught with danger and difficulties. The vessel and dress of these figures were left ambiguous intentionally, to demonstrate the universality of the voyage.
Hanalei Farmer's Market
Every Saturday morning at 9 am they line up, dressed in designer “bobo chic,”
toting faux African “going to market” baskets,
and sucking down locally grown/roasted/brewed iced lattes.
It seems everything at the Hanalei Farmer’s market is
local, organic, free range, and super hip.
The farmers are of post neo hippie movement
that work and breed many of Kauai’s north shore’s farmer’s co-ops and communes.
They are so healthy and glowing that you just want to slam a wheatgrass shot
and start munching down your acai breakfast bowl, chia seeds, and gluten free everything.
St. Lucian fishing boats are pulled up on the shore of the Texaco gas station. We navigate our dingy through lobster traps to fuel our boat.On weekends, Gros Islet is transformed into ground zero for jump up,fish fry, and tings… as the locals say. Think big street party. I painted Gros Islet from the bow of our 40 ft mono hull sail boat as we waited to fuel up.
I painted and sewed La La Salama (Swahili for sleep in peace) after several close family friends and members passed away. It is my hope that they are all watching over me, as my own rambunctious troupe guardian angels. This large mixed media painting has real feathers, Vietnamese quilts, and well seasoned vintage sailing canvas from the Bahamas sewn into the panels.
This painting was inspired by New Zealand’s native Maoris. I sewed hundreds of buttons and Maori influenced patterns onto this canvas along with several pieces of vintage fabric collected from my world travels.
I moved to New York City the week before 9/11 happened. I know everyone has their story of where they were that day and how it changed their life. Mine is not as eloquent or dramatic as some, but we were all affected in some way. In the fall of 2000, I had returned to my birthplace of Tanzania and was trying to settle down in Zanzibar when political unrest (not quite a revolution) forced me to eventually flee along with most of the island’s expats. It took me over a month to make my way via boat, trains, buses, and finally an airplane, to Israel of all places. This was the time when bus and market bombing were quite the norm. Needless to say when the events of 9/11 began to unfold… I was not surprised. I actually thought it was some how my fault. Like a tourist from Seattle bringing the rain. I thought disaster just followed me. In the week that followed, I experienced a New York that was shaken by catastrophe. Strangers hugged. Candles, flowers, and missing person’s posters were strewn everywhere. So was the dust of the several thousand souls who were incinerated in the blasts.
Hanapepe Art Walk
This painting depicts my first carnival on the tiny little island of St. John, which is part of United States Virgin Islands. I love how the local chickens dart through the lethal stilts of the moko jumbies while students playing handmade steel drums vie for the title of best performance troupe. There is always a carnival happening some where in the Caribbean.
The scattering of seeds…
the movement of a people. In the Virgin Islands this term refers to the “undocumented” Haitian migrant workforce. Early morning I would see them waiting on the wall to be picked up for work next to the local grocery mart.
With a quarter million Haitians dead after the 2010 earthquake, there was too much chaos, too little resources, and too many bodies to properly ensure that the Dessonet (series of Haitian voodoo rituals for used for funerals) could be carried out so that the deceased and their spirits would properly ascend into the next world. Many Haitians thus believe that their spirits are trapped in limbo – and will then continue to roam, haunt, and hide in the trees and streams of Hispanola.
This painting was made on a very weathered piece of Dhow sail cloth bought from a fisherman off the coast of Zanzibar. The fisherman had hand sewn several patches on it over the years giving me inspiration for the unusual composition for this piece. I pop riveted several painted copper plates to add more texture and then reworked the female form with oil paints to achieve max saturation.
Kwa Sababu means why, because, or therefore in Swahili. Similar to por que in Spanish. Unfortunately there isn’t the same one use word the encompasses this catch all feeling of “just because” in English. So I will just stop trying to explain it!
After eight years of performing aerial silks, I can literally say, I love to fly. This painting was made by sewing old african kangas, a vietnamese quilt, dhow sails from Zanzibar, and a vintage canvas yacht tote from the Bahamas together. When in doubt more white dots...
Melissa was a 50 year old handcrafted mahogany sailboat. Bought at auction after being confiscated from drug smugglers, loving restored, only to sink 20 years later when a bilge pump failed, hauled out once again by crane and transported across Kauai on the bed of a semi truck, then commandeered to the elements of rainforest rot a decade later.