Contrast: Who were you taking portraits of and how are you connected to them?
Paul Kema: These are portraits of Halau O Kekuhi who come from Hilo, Hawaii and I guess you could say I became the halau photographer by default since I was always hanging around with KZ.
What is the main message of this photography project communicating?
“Cherishing the Reflections” as Sig puts it. These photos offer the viewer an insight into both the physical and mental preparation that took place before the performance, something that is rarely seen. Each dancer is dressed in costume, eager to take stage, confident in their skill and readiness to perform, and at that point I simply tried to capture that confidence and anticipation.
Why do you think it’s important to document indigenous cultural practices like this?
This is our present day culture at its finest! Master Kapa makers like aunty Maire McDonald and aunty Nalani Kanakaoleʻs halau with seven generations of hula collaborating together on stage was pretty fʻing special. I was so stoked that they wanted to fly me over specifically to document this event. It was the first time in many generations that kapa was worn on stage in a theatrical performance and also a test of todayʻs kapa to withstand the strenuous dance of Halau O Kekuhi.
Where did you shoot ”Hiiakaikanoeau?”
Hiiakaikanoeau took place at Maui Arts & Culture Center this past January. Brandy and I setup a mini studio in one of the spare rooms there to shoot the dancers before they took the stage.
When can people view these hula portraits?
These 12″x48″ canvas pieces will be on display during Merrie Monarch at Sig Zane Designs unless somebody already bought them, then your out of luck!