Kumulipo, performance cartographies, and cultural basis of art

In process photograph, ' IMI,  2014, Nanea Lum   

In process photograph, 'IMI, 2014, Nanea Lum


Kumulipo, Mele ko'ihonua 

For those who are familiar with the Hawaiian chant, Kumulipo is the performance cartography that tells the genealogy of Hawaiian islands, gods, and indigenous plants, animals, and humans. Katrina-ann R. Kapa'anaokalaokeola Nakoa Olivera uses the term (performance cartography) in her book Ancestral Places, Understanding Kanaka Geographies, 2014, Corvallis, Oragon, pg 65, 1-5 to explain the concepts by which Hawaiian cultural world views are expressed relative to specifically the pae 'aina Hawaii (Hawaiian archipelago). Kanaka maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) oral traditions are the first example of a "performance cartography," a way that language and physical gesture makes real the conceptual boundaries between sky, earth, ocean, beach, mountains, fire, streams. Other philosophers have discussed how language is formed. The philosophy of language is debated as a function of logic, this context is not for understanding language however, it is for understanding the knowing of ones external and internal boundaries, it's  directionals and sensations. Experiential sensations, introspection and creative process combined, we are looking to understand the basis of art. 

Kumulipo is a mele ko'ihonua (cosmogonic genealogy) oral tradition which perpetuates the foundation for Hawaiian geography and ancestral culture. Mele ko'ihonua tell the genealogical connection that Kanaka have with the 'aina, the first living organisms, evolution, the birth of the gods, and people.

""Kumu" means "origin, source, foundation," and "lipo" means "dark, night, chaos." The union of these two words denotes the very beginning of time, when only darkness and chaos prevailed. The Kumulipo is a story both of origin and evolution, with all allusions to the natural growth of a baby within the womb. In the Kumulipo, the 'aina is not born in a natural birth process, nor is it created by the hands of the akua; rather, it grows from the depths of darkness and evolves into ka pae 'aina Hawaii (the hawaiian archipelago) Olivera, Ancestral Places, pg, 2/3

In process photograph,  LOA'A , 2014, Nanea Lum

In process photograph, LOA'A, 2014, Nanea Lum

Using the cultural foundation laid down by Kumulipo, other performance cartographies of Hawaiian culture are developed, hula (dance), mele (songs), hei (string figures). The pictorial medium is one that Hawaiians utilized in stone and wood carvings, petroglyphs, print making, string, and fiber figures. The expressions utilized in Hawaiian performance cartographies functioned like maps, referencing the specific 'aina of Hawaii and specific Hawaiian genealogies. My native visual expression of Hawaii began with understanding the foundation of  the Kumulipo and the implementation of indigenous world view into a pictorial medium. 

Through curiosity and compulsion, I developed a method to apply the Hawaiian concepts of creation to a artistic process. Beginning with chaos and nothingness, I laid down paint as a medium for change and evolution of form. The in process photos taken in my studio can act as moments of time or wā in which evolution of form took place. The natural order and balance of forms were articulated intuitively and in reference to a specific organism fleshy composition.