Momma and Dr. Usui said, honor and thank our teachers

27 05 2010

A shopper at last weekend’s Native Hawaiian Arts Market asked me if I considered myself a self-taught painter. “No is the short answer,” I replied quietly.

I believe in taking lessons, followed by lots of practice. I took lessons.

In the Hawaiian culture I learned everyone must have a teacher. Never mind you think you don’t need one, that you can do your own whatever. At least not in the beginning.

The first thing someone will ask is, “Who’s your kumu?” If you can say, “My kumu was ___ ,”  respect for your work goes up a notch. If you can’t, the response might be, “Uh-huh,” and you hardly will be given the time of day and wonder why.

Perhaps after working at it for a while, an artist will perfect his/her line and system and turn out creations that are identifiably theirs, but most successful artists have gotten a background of the universal principles and basic techniques prior to discovering how to manipulate the medium into something original and all their own.

Having a teacher gives your work credibility. It applies to more than just painting.

For example, at the opening of Oceania Exhibit at the National Museum of Ethnology, a.k.a. Minpaku, in Osaka, Japan, for which the museum built a replica of the Hale Kuai Cooperative store in Hauula to represent the Hawaiian Islands, Kealii Gora attended officially as cultural consultant, and I attended in my role as the real co-op’s executive director.

Ka Lahui Hawaii and yours truly co-founded the cooperative to buy and sell products made by Native Hawaiians.

Hale Kuai Cooperative caught the attention of Minpaku anthropology professor Akitoshi Shimizu, who led the project team. He felt it depicted a movement in economic development among indigenous Hawaiians in 1999.

The opening ceremony was hauntingly beautiful and Kealii’s oli (chanting) rocked the entire hall. Afterward a VIP guest confronted him and wanted to know “by what authority” Mr. Gora performed the protocol, along with a Maori representative from Aotearoa.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Kealii did not reply that he was an officer of Ka Lahui Hawaii (a de facto Hawaiian nation). That he most certainly was. He replied, “My teacher was Kumu John Keola Lake.” There wasn’t anything the guest could say after that.

Similarly, certified Reiki masters will identify their credentials by stating the genealogy of their Reiki line. I am 10th generation from Dr. Mikao Usui through Mrs. Takata. That brings to mind Dr. Usui’s precepts:

Just for today, do not worry.
Just for today, do not anger.
Honor your parents, teachers, and elders.
Earn your living honestly.
Give thanks to every living thing.

My mother, a piano teacher, taught me to remember and acknowledge my teachers. So I honor my teachers of art and Reiki by naming them here. Most of my teachers throughout my life were influential in some way, but these people made a loving impact.

Richard Nelson, Punahou School art history
Duane Preble, University of Hawaii at Manoa art history
Masao Miyamoto, University of Hawaii photographer
Michael Tamaru, University of Hawaii graphic designer
Glenn Christiansen, Darrow Watt, Norman Plate, Sunset photographers
Art Center College of Design faculty
Gloria Foss, The Foss School of Fine Arts, landscape painting
Vickie Kula, The Gloria Foss Color Course, studio drawing and painting
Susan Rogers-Aregger, Arts of Paradise gallery management
Alice Anne Parker, Reiki master
Lori Wong, Reiki master

Thank you for teaching me.

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke



2 responses

30 05 2010
Rebekah's Studio

Professor Akitoshi Shimizu championed the museum concept and attitude that you experienced in the exhibit representing the Hawaiian Islands. It represents not even a decade in time because as a peoples we continue to evolve. Since leaving my post as e.d. at Hale Kuai Cooperative, two directors and their boards succeeded me and took the co-op in a different direction. Professor Shimizu went to Tokyo for a faculty position at Hitotsubashi University. We both continue to support rights for indigenous peoples. More and more Native Hawaiians are recognizing and developing their talents and expertise for producing art and products for income. Yuichiro, I am envious of your visit to Minpaku! Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

29 05 2010

I was at Minpaku (National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan) yesterday, and was impressed by the museum’s attitude towards exhibiting Hawaiian history and culture not from the dead white colonizer’s point of view. Reading your entry, I was further impressed by the fact you were there to open the exhibit with a proper chant. I wonder if there is an ongoing exchange between the museum and Hale Kuai Cooperative because I believe a museum should be a forum where current, pressing issues are debated rather than a glass showcase in which mute objects are collected and on display. Yuichiro (Tokyo).

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