Pomai Brown, left, instructs Jesse Bright as he prepares to interview Dean Ka’ahanui for an episode of “Maka i Hawaii.” (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Iaukea Bright, left, and Pomai Brown prepare to record their first episode of their series, “Maka i Hawaii.” (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dean Ka’ahanui creates cultural works of art through carving, a small sampling of his work is displayed in his workshop at his home in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dean Ka’ahanui displays one of his pieces of art. He was featured on the new television program, “Maka i Hawaii.” (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dean Ka’ahanui plays a pu la’au, an instrument he carved. He was featured in the first episode of “Maka i Hawaii,” a program focusing on Hawaiian culture. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dean Ka’ahanui works on a carving at his home in Waimea as he prepares to be filmed for the first episode of “Maka i Hawaii,” a program focusing on Hawaiian culture. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dean Ka’ahanui works on a carving at his home in Waimea for the first episode of “Maka i Hawaii,” a program focusing on Hawaiian culture. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Local, culturally based venues now have a new Hawaii-wide media outlet available to them to highlight their unique traditions, artisans and kupuna.
KUPU is a small, upcoming Catholic-based TV station programming from Waimanalo on Oahu. While the new station airs Mass from the Vatican, the continental U.S. and several other places in Hawaii, they are also looking for cultural content and are including the neighbor islands to get other perspectives.
“Most religious stations don’t reach out to other communities, but we intend to include (others like) Hawaiian, Spanish, Filipino and Chinese outlooks,” said Bob Devaro, general manager of KUPU-TV.
One of those they reached out to was Nephi Pomaika’i Brown. Brown is a Hawaii Island actor, singer and musician, perhaps best known for his role in “50 First Dates” as Tattoo Face. He is also deeply connected to his Hawaiian heritage. KUPU contacted Brown because of his work with Na Leo O Hawaii Community Access Television.
“We bring a Hawaiian perspective,” Brown said. “We’re also hoping to use the segments as a library of sorts. Our kupuna have knowledge that can be shared with our youth, instead of (it) being lost. One things that drew me to it was there are much less restrictions than with Hawaii Public Access TV.”
Because KUPU operates as a for-profit enterprise, businesses with a cultural influence are allowed to give their phone numbers, something public access television does not allow.
“So there is some benefit for island businesses,” Brown added.
Brown and his partner, Iaukea Bright, and Bright’s son Jesse are in the process of producing 30-minute segments for the program, which is called “Maka i Hawaii.” The first installment, filmed last week in Waimea, features Dean Kaʻahanui, an artist who carves wood and bone by hand into one-of-a-kind, intricate and inlaid knives, jewelry, tikis, instruments and other Hawaiian artifacts. He learned this skill from his kumu, who was from Tahiti and the Marquesas. These sacred art forms and designs were passed down to him, and Kaʻahanui will in turn pass down this tradition to his children, and his children to their children, so this art form is not lost.
“This can be about anything, the message is whatever you want it to be,” Brown told Kaʻahanui, who was at first a little reticent about being in front of the camera.
Brown and Bright have several other Hawaiian artisans and kupuna lined up, including an expert in Hawaiian plants, medicine and sustainability, and a Waimea resident who reads stories to children in Hawaiian.
KUPU is also reaching out to Filipino and Spanish communities, with similar programming featuring cooking and other cultural aspects.
“We are based on Oahu but we are looking for cultural contributors and anything that would be of interest to viewers,” Devaro said. “We’re certainly willing to reach out if anyone has anything they want to share. Independent stations tend to be closed (to certain things) but the way technology is changing, and so much of programming is cable, local issues are becoming more popular than national ones.”
Brown is looking for other subjects to film. Any Hawaiian cultural topic or business that would be of concern to Hawaiian communities throughout the state of Hawaii is welcome. Contact Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Maka i Hawaii” is carried statewide, Channel 56 on Direct TV and on DISH. The first episode airs Aug. 1. Devaro is working with Hawaiian Telecom and Oceanic Time Warner to expand their broadcasting capabilities. Contact KUPU manager Devaro at email@example.com.