Mother of Molokai

Hina sculpture finally settles.

[Appeared in the Nov. 12, 2009 issue of The Molokai Dispatch]

By Catherine Cluett

Molokai artist Alapa`i Hanapi stands before his sculpture, “Pu`ino Kolu o Hina,” at the blessing ceremony last week.

Cool and contemplative, Hina sits with closed eyes and an open hand. Her hair falls around her like the rich valleys of Molokai, and her garments ripple like cascading waterfalls. Before her rests a stone gourd which holds the power of rebuke and even death. But Hina’s pose is that of anticipation, not anger, and Molokai rests safe in her lap. Hina, the mother of Molokai, is home at last. Molokai, Nui a Hina.

The sculpture “Pu`ino Kolu o Hina,” carved by Molokai artist Alapa`i Hanapi has finally settled in its rightful place in the courtyard between the Molokai Public Library and the state buildings. In a blessing ceremony last Tuesday, the journey that began more than a decade ago was completed.

Hina began to take birth in 1994, when an advisory committee was formed by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to choose an artist for a sculpture for Molokai. They selected Hanapi.

A year and a half and lots of prayers later, Hanapi found a dense, flawless stone deep in the earth of Kamalo. The rock weighed nearly six tons.

“We broke a couple machines trying to lift her,” Hanapi laughed, describing the process of withdrawing the massive stone from the old Kamalo quarry.

From 1996 to 1997, Hanapi carved away solid stone to reveal the form of Hina, from the waves of her hair to the smoothness of her closed eyelids. The sculpture is shaped after the chant “Pu`ino Kolu o Hina,” which describes the three wind storms of Hina. The winds are contained in a sacred gourd, Wawahonua`aho, which sits before her. The winds are held as a warning, and the last wind, Luluku, holds the power to destroy life. For Hanapi, the winds remind people of the importance of leadership and environment, so that Hina will not release the terrible winds upon the people of Molokai.

“I was reading the chant over and over,” explained Hanapi. “I wanted this peaceful, contemplative image and pose of anticipation.”

Penny Martin, who acted as the Master of Ceremonies at the blessing, described her first impression of Hina.

“It was love at first sight,” she said. “I wanted to climb up in her lap and have her hold me.”

With her left arm and leg exposed – her wahine side – Hina appears warm but composed.

“She is so powerful that you can feel her,” said Scarlett Ritte-Camara, Molokai resident and speaker at the blessing.

And the large group gathered before Hina did indeed feel her. With a strong gust of wind, Hina made her presence known at the blessing’s opening. And as Hawaiian immersion students offered ho`okupu, the air became heavy and a light rain fell.

With ho`okupu at her feet and the people of Molokai – her children – around her, she is finally complete. After years of bureaucratic complications – the state’s lack of budgeting for transportation of the sculpture and deciding what contractor would actually transport and install her – Hina rests in her rightful place.

“The people of Molokai… I dedicate this piece to you and the child [Molokai],” Hanapi said.

The sculpture’s guardians ask that all, keiki and adults alike, respect Hina and do not climb on her or offer inappropriate ho`okupu.

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About Catherine Cluett

I'm a freelance journalist, editor and photographer on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
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