Diamond Head is one of the most recognizable landmarks on earth–a dormant, if not extinct, volcano, known in Hawaiian as Lae'ahi. Lae'ahi is comprised of lae which means both forehead and headland, and 'ahi, both a yellowfin tuna and fire. One of the recurring images in this series of over 50 screenprints and mixed media prints is the geological profile of Diamond Head as the dorsal fin of an 'ahi. The visual forms of these prints–my artistic choices–derive from my fascination with this volcanic cone's entire cultural history. They include ancient Hawaiian lore and mythology, as well as contemporary governmental and military uses of Diamond Head.
In exploring this cultural history, these prints contain allusions to the mythological origins of the Hawaiian people, their emblematic bringer of peace, Lono, and their warrior god Ku. Contemporary manifestation of this ancient theme might be seen in the sharp contrast between the astonishing physical beauty and peacefulness of Diamond Head, on the one hand, and the numerous twentieth century military structures–concrete bunkers, remnants of gun emplacements, tunnels, and hidden stairways throughout the crater.
The arbitrary appropriations of land and exploitation of people and animals in Hawaii also appear in my work. Some victims of these cultural processes, for example, are the 'i'iwi and 'o'o, beautiful almost-extinct birds, sacrificed for capes and other ornaments. The enlightened Hawaiian land division, ahupua'a gave people access to both land and sea, but ultimately restricted people's movements and fractured the islands.
Diamond Head has been divided, arbitrarily broken up, and scarred by its various controllers and possessors, just as the Hawaiian land itself has been. Thus, my prints include the recurrent theme of mahele, the Hawaiian division of land, or general shattering of space.
Keala o Kahiki—the Way to Tahiti—from Diamond Head
This mixed media print is a view from inside a twentieth century bunker atop Diamond Head. It shows the open sea stretching back to Tahiti, the ancestral and mythological homeland of the Hawaiian people. On the inside walls of the bunker are life-affirming petroglyphs and piko holes. Also, extending toward the open sky and sea is my version of a navigational chart with the Hawaiian Islands as cloud formations. At the bottom of the print is some barbed wire, which in stark contrast to images of open sea and open sky, represents the impulse toward imprisonment and territoriality which is also part of human history.
Night Marchers at Diamond Head
The screenprint Night Marchers at Diamond Head contains images of the famous 100 steps within Diamond Head which lead from a tunnel, at the lower right of the print, to the upper-most bunkers at the top. Walking on this trail in petroglyph form is a line of spirited night marchers—mythical figures who inhabit Hawaii's culture, Hawaii's dreams, and perhaps Hawaii's trails.
The Golden Rule Bazaar
This screenprint refers to the 1894 seizing of the Necker Island, now called Mokumanamana. Seized were the indigenous ki'i pohaku created by the long-departed inhabitants of this nearly barren outcrop. The Republic of Hawaii annexation party took these sad ki'i back to O'ahu where they were displayed in a bare downtown curio shop window. Such use of Hawaiian artifacts exemplifies how Western cultural co-option diminished and dishonored Hawaiian culture. Reflected in the window are curious viewers including yourself.
This screenprint shows Hawaiian canoes beached on Diamond Head under a petroglyph sky. This image suggests that the ancient Polynesian voyagers from the South Pacific, sailing north, eventually to discover and name the Hawaiian Islands, were guided by an endlessly new and changing sky. Perhaps they considered their new night sky as fortuitous and life‑giving, and visualized it with the same imagery they would later carve into the rocks of their new islands. In the upper left, very faintly, is a “green flash.”
The Voyage of Captain Cook
This screenprint contains images of the travels and the life and death of Captain James Cook. The journey begins in the lower left corner of the print with Cook assessing his navigational chart. His final encounter with the Hawaiians is depicted to the right of the chart. It is his undoing. In the upper right he is carried off to Western heaven, and in the lower right his remains have been placed on a sacred Hawaiian offertory stand—the Hawaiian heaven.
Landed Committee—Annexation, a screenprint, explores the numerous cultural and historical aspects of this most famous landmark. The central images depict one of the notorious committees of colonial usurpers who annexed the kingdom of Hawai'i to the United States at the end of the 19th century; a map of Diamond Head, part of the land they took into their own hands; and a reference to historical paintings of Dutch burghers, governors and governesses of a poor house, whose hands also grasped land and colonies around the world.
Twilight at Necker
This screenprint contains the central image of Necker Island, a remote uninhabited outcrop of rock in the Hawaiian archipelego. For a temporary period of time, though, evidence shows that a small group of boat-wrecked men lived here for awhile, without resources to insure their future. In my print, the upside-down broken canoe shakes loose the mythical images from distant sojourner Polynesian islands, seeds unable to take root in the barren rock of Necker.
Civil Defense at Diamond Head
This print contains allusions to war and peace, in the recent history of Hawai'i as well as in the ancient past. Within a military installation in Diamond Head a group of civilians is seen participating in a gas mask drill, a common occurrence during World War II. Watching over them in the striking gourd masks of the ancient Hawaiians are three ethereal figures associated with Lono, the god of peace.
Na Maka o ka 'Aina
Na Maka o ka 'Aina is Hawaiian for the "eyes of the land" and also alludes to the deep spiritual relationship between the Hawaiian people and their land. The three standing figures include two wooden sculptures representing, on the right, Hina, the goddess of the moon, and on the left the Hawaiian war god, Ku. The central figure is a young Hawaiian man in the early 1900s who was asked to stand-in between these sculptures to provide scale. Such use of a Hawaiian man for archeological or photographic purposes exemplifies how Western cultural imposition diminished and dishonored Hawaiian culture.
My screenprint places those three figures within Diamond Head, Hawai'i's most recognizable natural landmark, where they stand upon a field of subjugated petroglyph images.
Na Maka Ki'i
Lahilahi Webb Greets Na Ki'i
Na Ki'i No Ka Po
Ok Honokoa–The Artifacts
Ok Honokoa–The Fishhooks
Ok Honokoa–Na Ka'ai
Ok Honokoa–Na Ki'i
Overview of Diamond Head
The screenprint Overview of Diamond Head attempts to present the “big picture," or rather several big pictures showing the history and current geography of Diamond Head. The central image is a full 360 degree view inside the crater showing numerous trails and contours of the rim.
Reproduced along the bottom of the print is a series of sepia‑toned drawings of Diamond Head made by a variety of early western travelers to and residents of Oahu. These early artists, some of whom are anonymous, probably never viewed the interior of the crater.
My print intends to combine these early artists’ renderings with a contemporary interior mapping to create a new overview.
Tunnel at Diamond Head
Guard Geese with Boots
Guard Geese at the Lockers
Guard Geese at the Guardhouse
Pastoral with Boots
'I'iwi at Diamond Head
Menehune — Kauwa
Menehune are legendary people who accomplished extraordinary feats of building permanent stone structures at night. Kauwa also are people outside the politically stratified Hawaiian society–the outcasts or pariahs. This print intends to give voice to these peoples.
Ahupua'a at Diamond Head
This screenprint Ahupua'a at Diamond Head refers to the ancient Hawaiian demarcations of land. Ahu refers to a pile of stones and pua'a refers to a pig (an offering or image left on the ahu). Other images include a contemporary military bunker (a 20th century ahu), gun emplacements shaped like pigs, and the red and yellow checkerboard pattern of Hawaiian capes.
Elevation and Azimuth at Diamond Head
Na Maka Uhi
This screenprint from my “Diamond Head Series” speaks of the production of barter goods here in Hawai'i, in this case uhi (yams), used for exchange for luxury goods brought by foreign ships. Kamehameha conscripted maka'ainana to plant, tend and harvest the king’s field, and Manini (Don Francisco de Paula Marin, a trusted foreigner from Spain, Mexico and Alta California) was Kamehameha’s business liaison with these foreign ships.
The Artifacts exhibits the themes of contemporary Hawaiian culture, including attitudes toward land and space, as well as the theme of artmaking. This print from my “Diamond Head Series” shows images from a photograph of an ancient Moloka'i heiau and a contemporary museum exhibition format. The kapa is both pre‑contact and post‑contact. The pile of nails (originally from Cook’s ships) alludes to kapa making, as well as other functions in fishing, weaponry, and barter in Hawaiian culture.
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Laura Ruby Artist
Diamond Head Series