Ki’i Kupuna ‘O ‘Ailā’au, original acrylic and aerosol on canvas by Carl F. K. Pao
“The series of works titled Ki’i Kupuna: ‘o ‘Ailā’au reflect on the return of the volcano deity ‘Ailā’au, who in the Hawaiian pantheon preceded the more popularly known goddess Pele. Over the last century ʻAilāʻau’s story has largely fallen into obscurity. He has been consigned to the margins of memory, forgotten except by a few. But the eruptions at Puʻu ‘Ō’ō and the East Rift Zone–Fissure 8 in 2018 heralded what some believed to be his return. At the time, kūpuna and kumu hula within the Hawaiian community attested to having had dreams and visions that pointed to the volcanic activity as being the work of the older god ‘Ailā’au rather than Pele. Even scientists acknowledged that the magma at the start of the eruptions was of a more ancient origin. This series of works seeks to repatriate ‘Ailā’au to the center of collective remembering, not as a challenger to the Pele narratives, but as a coequal in a more diverse and deeper storyline.
On a personal note, these works hold familial significance for me. I carry the name Ka’ailā’au from my father’s mother’s genealogy and my daughter is also named after him. To us he is not simply a deity, he is our tūtū kāne. Thus, these works are at once about bringing to the surface hidden storylines as well as celebrating and perpetuating ancestral connections.” -Carl