Maui Arts & Entertainment

Mālama Wao Akua 2019: Celebrating the Native Species of Maui Nui

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Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center. Gaylord Paul Garcia for Maui Now.

In the Mālama Wao Akua 2019 exhibition, Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center collaborated with East Maui Watershed Partnership to present an art exhibition that aims to raise awareness about the importance of protecting Maui Nui’s native species.

The exhibition was juried by Bob Hobdy, retired forester and environmental consultant and Joëlle Chicheportiche, artist and curator at Viewpoints Gallery. The jurors based their final artwork selections in part on those that were most successful in sharing awareness and knowledge of Maui’s watersheds and native species.

Artists used a variety of mediums – including fabrics, ceramics, digital media and wood.

Detail of Kaliko Spenser’s “Ka Wahine Noho Wai,” 2019. Gaylord Paul Garcia for Maui Now.

One of the artworks selected for the show was Kaliko Spenser’s “Ka Wahine Noho Wai.”  The piece is a kapa dyed with po‘a‘aha, ‘uki‘uki, ‘alaea, and pa‘u. According to her artist’s statement, the kapa kīhei pays ode to the women that protect our waters.


Another striking artwork is Lanakila Makua’s “Delicate Balance,” an oil on koa piece that yearns for the ‘io – a native hawk that symbolizes royalty in Hawaiian culture – and its presence on Maui.

Lanakila Makua’s “Delicate Balance,” 2019. Gaylord Paul Garcia for Maui Now.

Although the artist’s research suggests that the ‘io never resided on Maui, Makua’s father recollects that he and his wife observed two ‘io flying through the endemic forest of Haleakalā in the mid-’90s. Today, the ‘io lives and breeds only on Hawai’i island but was once known to inhabit Molokaʻi, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi.

His father’s memory inspired the piece.

“I have never seen one in person and hope to see them flourish once again,” Makua said in a statement “I hope there are still ‘io in the misty deep native forest and that more will return.”

Mary Ann Leigh’s “Architecture – Loulu Style,” 2019. Gaylord Paul Garcia for Maui Now.


Mary Ann Leigh, a ceramic artist living in West Maui, submitted a piece that features the imprints of loulu from her garden. Her sculpture was recognized and selected to be purchased by the State of Hawai‘i.

“The piece took a whole week because I had to roll out slabs and then I had to cut out the pieces, and press the leaves in and so it follows the line for each section,” Leigh said about the laborious process it took to create her piece.

During last night’s juror’s walk-through, Chicheportiche commented that although the exhibit was divided into age divisions, she was amazed at the talent Maui’s keiki has to offer.

“I would have still chosen some of the works from the students to be part of this exhibit,” Chicheportiche said.


The Hui hopes that Maui artists of all ages continue to explore Maui Nui’s watersheds and express the value native plants and animals have in our daily lives.

“Go out there, take a class, even if you think you might only have a little bit of interest,” Leigh added as a word of advice for aspiring artists. She took a night class at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College 10 years ago out of curiosity. Her loulu-inspired piece is the third artwork the state of Hawaiʻi has decided to acquire.

The Mālama Wao Akua 2019 exhibit opened to the public on Sep. 13. and will remain in the Hui’s historic gallery space through Nov. 10, with free admission between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A portion of artwork sales benefit Hui Noʻeau and East Maui Watershed Partnership.

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