Ancient Hawaiian knot-tying techniques have taken on a new twist in the artwork of Hawai‘i Community College Hawaiian Studies Professor Taupōuri Tangarō. Now some of his creations are part of Hawai‘i’s largest contemporary art festival, the Honolulu Biennial 2019 that goes until May 5 at multiple sites.
Tangarō has 10 art pieces on exhibition. Nine are at the HUB at Ward Village, and one is at Nieman Marcus at the Ala Moana Center. The artwork is derived from kōkōpu‘upu‘u, which are traditional carrying nets. Tangarō has taken the knot-tying techniques that are used to create kōkōpu‘upu‘u and applied them to “wearables” like skirts and sashes, which gives the old technique a contemporary spin.
“It’s traditional in many points but really innovative in the sense that this is not exactly what it looked like in the old days,” says Tangarō. “We’ve taken something very old and reordered it.”
The blend of tradition and innovation is at the heart of a University of Hawai‘i initiative called Hawai‘i Papa O Ke Ao, which seeks to make UH a leader in indigenous education.
“Like kōkōpu‘upu‘u, we come from well-defined cultural practices, but with innovation we can take those cultural practices and introduce them in a new light,” says Tangarō.
Dr. Tangarō serves as Director of Hawaiian Culture and Protocols Engagement at Hawai’i Community College and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.
VIDEO: Tangarō Interviewed on KHON About Honolulu Biennial 2019