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New sculpture at Lahainaluna High School bridges the past and future

By Staff | Mar 14, 2019

Sculpted by Randall Shiroma with input from the school community, Ke Kukui Pio‘ole (The Inextinguishable Torch) was dedicated at Lahainaluna High School on March 4.

LAHAINA – Installed on a hillside overlooking the majesty that is Lahaina on the historic grounds of Lahainaluna High School, Ke Kukui Pio’ole (The Inextinguishable Torch) was dedicated in a Hawaiian ceremony held on campus Monday morning, March 4.

The 30-foot-high, stainless steel and terrazzo abstract spire was sculpted by Randall Shiroma through a $100,000 grant from The Art in Public Places-Artists in Residence (APP-AIR) program, a collaboration between the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA).

From selection to installation, the artist is fully engaged in the project through the integrated visual arts in education process.

It was no easy feat; and, in this case, took about five years, working with the students in the classroom at Lahainaluna, consulting with the five-member Art Advisory Committee, sculpting at his studio on the Big Island, transporting and installing.

Art Advisory Committee members were the then-principal (Emily De Costa), then-teacher (Nancy Young), then-student (Alicia Pena), community member (Priscilla Gonzales) and then-SFCA commissioner (Michael Moore).

The dedication ceremony opened with the mele “Ua ao Hawai‘i ke ’olino nei” (Hawaii is in an era of enlightenment). 

Nancy Young and Bill Lewis co-authored the grant.

Each one of the panelists can be proud of the results of their volunteerism for many decades to come – a statue that aspires to soar to the heights of our future with our feet firmly planted in the footsteps of our past.

Opening ceremonies on Monday morning echoed this sentiment, with a mele performed by students from both the Hawaiian Language class and Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Lahainaluna (Hawaiian Language Immersion Program) led by Kumu Leomana Crozier and Kumu Kaui Spitalsky.

“Through this mele, we are reminded that with the rising of the sun of today, we are privileged to learn the knowledge of our ancestors as well as the knowledge of this time and place.

“The students felt,” Spitalsky advised, “this was the perfect mele to share with the blessing of this new sculpture Ke Kukui Pio’ole, as it embodies the torch of enlightenment.”

During the dedication, Shiroma stepped forward to speak about the meaning of the piece.

“It is the inextinguishable torch, but I think that it also talks about the spirit that we have inside of us, which is inextinguishable,” he said.

“The upper portion relates to the early Polynesian navigational charts. It’s saying we have to guide ourselves or foster that spirit within us as well as we have to foster that spirit within the children,” he added.

Shiroma described the lower section of the sculpture as a mooring hole for grounding.

“Lahainaluna is also the beacon that many alumni return to,” Spitalsky observed.

“It is the hope that as students travel far on their educational voyages, they also remember who they are and where they came from. In doing so, they can continue the educational legacy for the generations to come. Embracing that identity with pride is what lights that inextinguishable spirit of knowledge,” she said.

The evolution of Ke Kukui Pio’ole was revealed by Shiroma in an interview with Lahaina News: “One of the boarders in my class had made an imu for an event at the school. I jokingly asked if they had extra kalua pig that he could let me have. He said, ‘No, no; all the extra were for the elderly.’

“Another story is Keith, who on the Saturday before the dedication did the plantings around the sculpture, was doing the weed whacking and watering the area. He had his class prepare the ground for the plantings and gotten the plants from the nursery here. He was a graduate of Lahainaluna and replaced the ag teacher that he had. I asked if he found his successor, and (he) said he was still looking.

“These stories touched me. It is this community spirit – the preservation of values directed to and within the community. I see it in the campus, and there is a feel that caring and history can give to a space,” he continued.

“It is history with a human touch; the preservation remembered and continued in people’s action. History expressed in living things – the trees carry it. It seems they prosper with the care and are benevolent sentinels that have witnessed the past hundred years. It is in the students. There is a warmth and goodness that they exude.

“Lahaina is a beautiful place – it is easy to understand that it was the Hawaiian Kingdom capitol. If places have grace, this would be a place; the safe haven of the waters, expressed through the scenery, the whales. For me, this beauty intertwines within the people and the land, the land and the people to create ‘community.’

“Artists believe that there is a correlation between beauty and truth, and that correlation for me here is this ‘community.’ The sculpture grew from this,” he affirmed.

Closing remarks were given by Lahaina Legend Lori Gomez-Karinen, retired English teacher and curriculum coordinator and current leader of the school’s traditional Hawaiiana Club and director of the Boarders’ Chorus.

“We are humbled as we accept this fine, excellent sculpture that reconnects us to our past… It is with an understanding of our past that we can build a transparent bridge to the future. The wisdom of our past is embedded in our tradition, our values, our cultural moorings and our language,” she avowed.