Sweet memories and coming home, part 2

11 09 2009

For a time I joined the morning water exercise class at Pohai Nani, a vibrant senior living community in Kaneohe, which led to my  practice of Reiki there for the residents and staff. One day, more than five years ago, Judy who coordinated activities showed me the little chapel and told of a dream to refurbish it.

I saw a cute, tiny room with an arched ceiling and pews for no more than about 8 to 12 people, if that many. The glass doors on the side slid open to overlook a small enclosed garden patio.  A hallway entrance was plain and dim. I agreed the chapel could used some refreshing.

Judy mused, wouldn’t it be nice to have the chapel decorated with a painting, something Hawaiian, to brighten the area? Maybe something in the hallway to welcome the residents, maybe even something in the chapel itself? I envisioned a fresco-like painting on a wall.

If it was to be Hawaiian, then the only person I knew who could do such a project was Ipo Nihipali, a Native Hawaiian artist known for her paintings of native birds and who had just completed a large outdoor painting at the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Later I called Ipo to ask if Pohai Nani could contact her directly, and I gave Judy the information. I moved on to another project and didn’t see Ipo until this summer at a Hawaiian civic club celebration.

“Rebekah! Rebekah Luke! I have been looking for you!” Ipo exclaimed. She grasped my hand in both of hers. They were trembling and deliciously warm. “I finished it. I finished the painting!” Ipo said she had gotten the commission after all. She said she prayed about the piece and allowed the kupuna (elders) to guide her work. “We’re having the blessing on July 22nd, and I want you to come!” I assured her I would be there.

As soon as one steps onto the breezeway leading to the main entrance at Pohai Nani, the new painting beckons. It was decided that the imagery grace the lobby rather than the chapel for all to enjoy. Entitled KO‘OLAU! the painting is exquisitely executed and depicts our mountain cliffs, the forest, native birds, plants, a waterfall and stream. The piece is enhanced with real pohaku (stones), native ohia lehua branches, a sprouting coconut, ti leaf bundles, and arrangements of tropical ginger beneath the painting, creating a three-dimensional set. It is as if you can step right into the painting.

Recalling Ipo’s words at the ceremony, the manao (thoughts, ideas) for the  painting is something like this:

Do you remember what it was like, when you were a child, to swim in the pool and play in the forest? Look, you can do that again. Come. Leave your earthly possessions here, and go to the other side. Look at the mountains and see your ancestors. They are calling and waiting to carry you home once more. “Oh! Ko‘olau, my beloved rainbow of dreams.”

KO‘OLAU! is a magnificent work, amazing, and a miracle. Ipo will tell you that herself. That’s because she is legally blind (when she can see, it is as if she is looking through a glass of water), and she has Parkinson’s or Parkinson’s-like tremors. What a gift.

Mahalo e Ipo, my tita angel! Aloha no wau ia oe. ~ Rebekah

Artists Ipo Nihipali and her father Joseph Dowson at the blessing and dedication of "KO‘OLAU!"

Native Hawaiian artists Ipo Nihipali and her father Joseph Dowson at the blessing of KO‘OLAU!

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke
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One response

11 09 2009
Sue Hylton

What a wonderful story and painting.

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