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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taylor Ko

The Navigator's Triangle

Updated: Jan 30

When thinking of what the Voice of the Sea means to me I think not just of waves or whales but of cultural connections.

The ancient Polynesian wayfinders not only had an impressive knowledge of the natural world, they saw themselves as an integral part of it.

Using the stars, waves, and sea life as guides they navigated thousands of miles from Tahiti to Hawai’i.

Incredibly, Mau Piailug, who learned wayfinding from his grandfather, could listen to the waves alone to find land when the weather was stormy.

Mau passed on his knowledge to Nainoa Thompson who organized the most important stars into 4 starlines, each covering 1/4 of the nighttime sky aka the celestial dome.

As a tribute to the wayfinders, my painting The Navigator’s Triangle depicts the third starline, Manaikalani. It is named after Maui’s magical fishhook which, according to legend, he used to discover new islands and pull existing ones closer.

The stars Humo/Altair and Keoe/Vega touch the top of each of the red sails. Deneb and Cyrus the Swan complete the triangle in the upper left of the painting. Maui’s fishhook passes through the bottom of the sails and continues on the lower right.

I created many layers with small details like sea creatures and celestial maps waiting to be discovered. The strong diagonals through the waves in The Navigator’s Triangle add to the dynamic movement of the ship and reinforce the daring of the journey.

The Navigator's Triangle 24" x 36" will be on display at Viewpoints Gallery for their Celebration of Hawai'i 2024 Show, Ka Leo Moana, The Voice of the Ocean. It is the gallery's 19th Annual Exhibit February 18 – April 26, 2024. Opening reception February 18th 5-7pm, 3620 Baldwin Avenue, Suite 101, Makawao HI 96768 Maui.

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