Image courtesy of artist

Image courtesy of artist

Duncan ka'ohu seto


TRIBE: Native Hawaiian

MEDIUM: Weaving, Drawing

LOCATION: Hilo, Hawaii




For decades, master weaver Duncan Ka’ohu Seto has literally woven his Native Hawaiian ancestral gifts into his community’s present and future. Some of Ka’ohu’s best work will never been seen. It wasn’t meant to be.

Deeply involved as a teacher and advocate in the reemergence of lauhala weaving, an art form long at the center of traditional everyday Hawaiian life and households, Ka’ohu has woven lauhala into another lifelong commitment — the repatriation of Hawaiian ancestral remains and sacred objects. He has created dozens of burial baskets to contain ancestral remains so that they could be returned with dignity to the land of their birth. Tasked with teaching new students, Ka'ohu has visited schools, colleges and Hawaiian communities who wanted to share the responsibility to become part of the healing process. Ka'ohu's invaluable work was not meant for public display, but to honor the past and inspire the future.

“Ka’ohu gives much more than art to his community, he gives back his mana, his inner divine power, to his ancestors and his community,” says Elizabeth Ka’iulani In Takamori, who nominated Ka’ohu for the 2016 Community Spirit Award. “Ultimately, he helps the Native Hawaiian community heal and reconnect with their kupana, their ancestors.”

“My family and I recognize the interdependent relationships that exist between the living, our ancestors, and our children and the responsibility that comes with each relationship to care for the others,” Ka’ohu says. “We take care of our ancestors and pass on to our children the responsibility to care for us, and to teach their children the same. By doing so, we maintain the integrity of our ancestral, current and future family members.”