Protector and provider: Artist profile on Vicky Takamine

This is the second in a series of profiles on the 2013 Community Spirit Awards recipients. In upcoming issues of e-Spirit, First Peoples Fund will continue to introduce to you the remarkable artists and culture bearers who are receiving the honor this year.

Protector. Provider. A person who has changed the way Native art and Hawaiian culture is preserved.

If you ask Hawaiian Ka’iulani Takamori, Vicky Takamine is all of these things, which is one of the reasons the instructor, activist and long-time artist was nominated and named one of the recipients of the First Peoples Fund Community Spirit Award for 2013.

Takamine, who is Native Hawaiian, founded and directs the Pua Ali’i 'Ilima dance studio. The studio, and the center of Takaimine’s life work, has been about celebrating and preserving traditional hula dance. Through hula, Native Hawaiians have been able to carry on their tradition, language, values, culture and history, Takamine said.

“It’s critical,” she said. “Through hula, all other cultural practices have survived.”

She started the PA’I Foundation, to preserve and protect Native traditions. Through the foundation, Takamine has been partnering with Minneapolis-based Artspace, to help build an arts and cultural center in Honolulu in 2014 that will serve as a gathering center for Native Hawaiian artists, activists, environmentalist and educators. The cultural center will be the first of its kind in Waikiki, and will be located on the first two floors of a six story building with live-work studio spaces for artists. The center will break ground in 2014.

"We are excited to be working with Vicky on her plans to create and house the PA'I Arts and Culture Center, a place to celebrate and share the rich history of Native Hawaiian dancers, musicians, visual artists, cultural practitioners and others, on the ground level of the future Ola Ka 'Ilima Artspace Lofts in Honolulu," said Kelley Lindquist, president of Artspace. "It is an honor to be a part of Vicky's vision and plans."

Also, Takamine has been working to host the annual Mali Arts Month (MAMo), which she started in early 2006 after Native Hawaiian artists were not included in the artwork chosen for the state’s convention center.

“They included $1 million worth of artwork, but not one Native Hawaiian was commissioned,” she said. “It was such an insult. And an awakening to do something to change it.”

Today, MAMo is a month-long showcase of Native Hawaiian culture and artwork, which includes a fashion show, a 50-page pamphlet featuring artists, and a number of other celebrations.

“It’s to force the state to recognize we are alive and thriving,” she said. It was more than a decade ago that Takamine also started attending meetings, organizing demonstrations during the legislative session and speaking out about the importance of Native artwork and culture. She never intended to become an activist, she said, but a family history in politics and her deep love and appreciation of the islands led her to it.

“I have been preparing for it all my life,” she said.

Takamori agreed.

“She is one of the most influential people in this community,” Takamori said. “She was one of the first to take a stand for justice for Natives in Hawaii. She doesn’t just sit by and let things happen… she takes a stand. I don’t think we would be where we are now if it were not for her.”

Takamine said she is honored to be included among other recipients of the Community Spirit Award.

“They embody the spirit of the community and the ancestors, and they carry that wherever they go,” she said. “We do the work for the people before us. We don’t do it for the recognition,” she said, pausing.

"We do it because it needs to be done.”