Sunday, March 31, 2024


Next up we're visiting Lahui (1992), a sculpture by Sean Kekamakupa‘a Lee Loy Browne at the entrance to Honolulu's Kaka‘ako Neighborhood Park. Kaka‘ako is sort of like Portland's South Waterfront, an old industrial area being forcibly gentrified with a great deal of governmental involvement and investment. The park itself was formerly an oceanfront landfill, later sealed and capped with a city park around 1990, which IIRC was shortly after the federal EPA clarified that oceanfront landfills were officially no bueno. Understandably you are not encouraged to go in the water here, and there's no beach to bum around on anyway, just waves crashing on a rough stone seawall.

The word "lahui" roughly means "nation" in Hawaiian. Which is understandably a very loaded word in Hawaii. So instead of telling us more about the art, a search on the name brings up links like:

  • An academic article: "Urban aloha ‘aina: Kaka‘ako and a decolonized right to the city"
  • The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs's Kaka‘ako Makai plan, which gave OHA a few chunks of valuable land around the edges of the park, as compensation for $200M the state owed but had neglected to provide since 1978. Supposed to develop as a revenue source for the benefit of Native Hawaiian communities. Or that's the plan anyway. A look at the city GIS system shows the OHA land is mostly surface parking lots at present.
  • A controversial 2018 homeless crackdown in the park
  • A 2018 event with the artist at the University of Redlands in California, which came up as a search result because the page includes a long list of public art credits, including Lahui here.

Browne also created the Kresser memorial in downtown, a couple of statues of Hawaiian royals around Waikiki, and a variety of other things that have appeared here over the years.

Fred Kresser Memorial, Honolulu

The next stop on our long-running public art tour is another bit of abstract art in downtown Honolulu, at the corner of Bishop St. and Hotel St. This is the Fred Kresser Memorial Sculpture, honoring a local businessman who was one of seven people who died in the bizarre 1983 Sentosa cable car accident in Singapore, in which a tall drilling derrick on an oil rig snagged overhead cable car lines as it the rig was towed underneath. This was blamed on negligence by several parties including the oil rig and towing operator; the cable car system was repaired and remains a major tourist attraction. I mention this because I think I'd like to visit Singapore someday, going by multiple reports from friends and relatives, and would rather not be turned away at their reportedly amazing airport for bringing up this unfortunate isolated incident from a very long time ago that was somebody else's fault anyway. I'm only mentioning it at all because I can't explain the art otherwise, ok?

Apparently there's another small memorial somewhere along the Mo‘ili‘ili side of the Ala Wai Canal, just titled "Dad's Rock", but I don't know where it is and have no photos of it.

The sculpture was created by local artist Sean K.L. Browne, who also did the King Kalakaua statue in Waikiki as well as Lahui, the abstract sculpture at the entrance to Kaka'ako Neighborhood Park. I also have a draft post about Lahui that's been hanging around unpublished for ages now, so I think I'll try to finish both today and then update them to point at each other.