Hauwahine, Guardian of Kawainui

Hauwahine Guardian of Kawainui
Hauwahine, Guardian of Kawainui
18 x 36 inches,
oil on wood panel

Hauwahine is a shapeshifting Hawaiian diety who protects Kawainui Marsh, the largest open wetland of Kailua. In the stories of Hauwahine, she watches over the area, alternately appearing as a beautiful Hawaiian woman, or a huge lizard/dragon creature called a mo‘o to charm or threaten humans as needed to cultivate positive behavior. Stories of mo‘o taught values of community and sustainability such as sharing food generously, caring for the land, avoiding overfishing, and paying attention to seasonal water safety. Here I have taken an age-old technique of narrative paintings, showing multiple forms of Hauwahine simultaneously. She sits in human form on the promontory of her own mo’o form. In the sky, a bird soars over the modern marsh toward the rising sun.

After learning several mo‘olelo (legends) from kumu (Hawaiian teachers), a pattern emerged. There is a keen observation of rock forms that usually informs the lore of each area, so imagine the “chicken skin” moment when I saw the huge rock that forms Hauwahine’s favorite promontory, Na Pohaku Hauwahine (Boulders of Hauwahine), is shaped like a giant lizard or dragon head! I tried to make my painting reflect the scale of the massive rock. Land all around the marsh has been developed, but the legend of Hauwahine is strong, and the marsh remains undeveloped and wild, a miracle that I consider to be the result of environmentalists, Hawaiians, flood plains, and the spirit of Hauwahine working in tandem to keep the land untamed.

Contact Wendy about this painting