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

Let it snow!

2 12 2009

Where does a Hawaiian island girl go on vacation? To places where it is cold and snowy. To places where I can wear clothes! In a few days I’ll be on my way to central Europe to visit the Christmas markets where I know it will be very cold.  I am wishing for snow.

Somewhere along the river cruise route from Germany to Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary there might be some of that falling white fluffy stuff. Maybe in Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, or Budapest? I’ve got my snow boots packed! In the meantime, our WordPress host is accommodating by snowing on Rebekah’s Studio. Cool, huh? (pun intended)

Here’s a picture of a picture of my very first snowman the year I declared, as an adult, that I wanted a winter vacation. It was the first time I deliberately traveled to a cold place. My visit to Anchorage, Alaska, coincided with the Fur Rendezvous festival in Anchorage.

Heather and Sean showed me how to build a snowman in Alaska

A couple of seasons before that, it snowed in the mountains on the San Francisco peninsula in California during the coldest winter since such-and-such year. I was working for Sunset magazine at the time. That winter I remember the first snowball thrown at me at Yosemite National Park where the waterfalls were frozen and the scenery was gorgeous-crisp and quiet.

Throughout our 25 years of marriage, DH and I often visited his parents, brother’s and sister’s families in Pennsylvania during the winter holiday, so often that my friends would ask if I ever went anywhere else besides Pennsylvania.

The last December we went to the East Coast, before this one, was to see his parents at their funerals within two weeks of each other. We huddled under the falling snow and placed orchid lei on the ground in the church’s memorial garden where we buried their ashes.

One weekend we took the train from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. We stayed at the Pen Arts building that is the headquarters for the National League of American Pen Women, the members’ clubhouse. The staff went home for the weekend, and the mansion was ours. To trek around in the snow the next morning, though, we first had to get out of the front door. Thank goodness DH remembered how to shovel the steps and to say, “Yes, thank you!” when a man came by to ask if he should salt the sidewalk.

If you have to live in wintry weather all the time, I’m sure it could be more tiresome than romantic. But if you are born and reared in Hawaii as I was, it’s a novelty.

When I was in Osaka, Japan, one February for the opening of the Oceania exhibit at Minpaku (the National Museum of Ethnology) at Senri Park, Professor Shimizu regretted to tell me, when I asked, that it probably would not snow. A few minutes into lunch, he was really surprised to see the white flakes falling outside the dining room window. But I wasn’t.

Here is the link to Minpaku. The photo you see is an exact replica of Hale Kuai Cooperative store with authentic Native Hawaiian made products in Hauula, Oahu, that I co-founded with Ka Lahui Hawaii. How it got there as the Hawaiian part of the permanent Oceania exhibit at the museum is an amazing story, a real memoir that I’ll share with you someday.

I say it’s fitting that WordPress bless this blog with snow. Please enjoy it warmly in front of your computer! I’m planning to send holiday posts while abroad.

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

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