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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taylor Ko

Seeing with Eight Eyes: Makawalu

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Lisa, my Hawaiian friend, introduced me to the concept of makawalu. Literally in the Hawaiian language maka means eyes, and walu is eight, and it has the connotation of an abundance of perspectives.

"If you begin to use a tool, think of eight ways you might be able to use it.

If you plot a garden, think of eight sections that will rotate your earth in season.

If you consider a friendship, think of eight ways you will be able to share it.

If you write a song, think of eight voices who will help you sing it."

I found it so intriguing that while we look at the digits on our hands and use base 10 as a number system, the Hawaiians looked at the 8 spaces between our fingers. The empty places can hold 8 fish tails or 8 taro leaves. For them, 8 is the number of completeness.

In addition to a multitude of perspectives makawalu implies infinite resources, and abundance rather than scarcity. Maintaining an abundance mindset is so important for an artist, and never more so than now. Using your creativity expands it rather than diminishes it. Sharing what you have gives back to you in unexpected ways.

I put makawalu into practical use in a proposal I wrote for a gallery show in Maui which will be showing in December of 2020. The challenge was to involve the community in some way. I decided to focus on one of our most critically endangered birds, the Palila. I started with 8 12" x 12" boards for my part of the project which is informed by Lisa's graduate studies on Palila vocalizations. I invited a ceramist, Marlenea Sheffield, graduate poetry fellow, Arah Ko, and the students at Christian Liberty Academy and Haili Christian to work along with me and give their abundance of perspective toward the Palila. Stay tuned to see how each part of this project is developing.

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