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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

High-point of culture

 •  Ki ho'alu legends to talk story, jam

By Marie Carvalho
Special to The Advertiser

"Ko Ki Kumulipo (The Dreamer)" by Jean Charlot, who is featured in "Art in Public Places" at the Hawai'i State Art Museum.

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2006 INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL SUMMIT

Hawai'i Convention Center

8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. tomorrow and Friday, 8 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $40-$150

956-8204

www.hawaii.gov/sfca

You can pre-register through noon today, by downloading a registration form from the Web site and faxing it to the University of Hawai'i Conference Center at 956-3364. You can register on-site tomorrow.

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Claudine Kinard Brown

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SUMMIT HIGHLIGHTS

Tomorrow

  • "Art for the Ages," ceramic sculptor and painter Jun Kaneko gives a slide presentation on his creative process. 1:30-3 p.m.

  • "World Heritage: A Shared Legacy," Brenda Barrett of the National Park Service, Peter Young of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (on UNES-CO's work in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) and Sarah Titchen of UNESCO talk about National and World Heritage Sites.

    Don't miss: Reception at the Hawai'i State Art Museum and its show, "Art in Public Places," 5:30-8 p.m.

    Friday

  • "Aloha Spirit: Interplay of Myth and Fantasy," Peter Apo of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, Chief Sonne Reyna of the Yaqui Carizo Nations and others discuss the relationship of tourism and local culture. 9:45-11 a.m.

  • "As Good as it Gets," keynote speaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Wade Davis and others discuss decision-making and leadership.

    Saturday

    "The Art of Engaged Learning," Eric Booth of The Juilliard School speaks on the role of the arts in education.

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    Sonne Reyna

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    Wade Davis

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    Elaine Valdov

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    Rubies are the traditional 40th-anniversary gift, but for its 40th, the Hawai'i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts is giving the Islands a "virtual" mosaic: a three-day cultural summit, which is a regional first.

    The celebratory conference will bring together diverse groups teachers, politicos, human-services leaders, artists to talk culture and community. It's a fitting gathering for a place "that's already a mosaic," says foundation chairwoman Mona Abadir.

    The summit's seeds were planted years back, in a series of think-tank discussions between the foundation and community leaders. One such "mini brain-trust," says Abadir, involved participants as disparate as a University of Hawai'i chancellor and a Zen Buddhist master. What they unearthed was a cultural community ripe for leadership, funding and collaborative programs.

    From those seeds sprouted the International Cultural Summit a name that announces itself as no garden-variety conference. A summit usually attracts political leaders; this one boasts many, from Japan Consul General Shigeo Iwatani to Gov. Linda Lingle to Elaine Valdov, director of the United Nations Task Force on Women and Gender Equality.

    And a summit's goals are often lofty; this one's no exception, exploring the very "foundation of cultures," says Abadir, also chief operating officer of the real-estate development company Honu Group. With 28 partners, ranging from the state Department of Human Services to the East-West Center and the state Tourism Authority, summit organizers also hope that it will bond diverse groups.

    So many hands tilling the soil make for an eclectic menu, including sessions on World Heritage sites (the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are under consideration for that designation); "Hip Hop N Wutchugot," preventative strategies to reach families and at-risk youth; creativity and the economy; and slack-key guitar (see sidebar).

    One panel pits tourism-industry promotion against host-culture preservation a hot-button topic in Hawai'i, since "cultural tourism," once a niche market, has become the global travel industry's new sustainability catch phrase.

    Quality-of-life issues, Abadir explains, connect us all and it's just this kind of conversation that she believes promotes mutual understanding: "The answers may be expressed differently, but the dialogue builds tolerance."

    Keynote speaker Claudine Kinard Brown adds that a community's challenge is to maintain and value its cultural identity. Its twin responsibilities, she says, are "to preserve things that are historically unique" and "to create a place and space for innovation."

    "If you want to honor that place you are coming from, you also have to accept and acknowledge how you are changing," says Brown.

    Brown would know, having been intimately involved with the creation of the Smithsonian Institution's National African American Museum. She now assesses grant proposals as director of the Arts and Culture Program at the New York-based Nathan Cummings Foundation; locally, their money helped The ARTS at Marks Garage get off the ground.

    Brown finds Hawai'i's cultural climate "very reminiscent of New Orleans pre-Katrina," with most indigenous art "unincorporated," meaning that many people practice rich cultural traditions without the financial help that established organizations receive.

    She sees a shift in post-Katrina New Orleans, which may signal change: Funding entities are still endowing nonprofits, but are also looking to support projects by unincorporated groups and even private for-profits, such as art galleries. "They're all a part of a larger infrastructure that supports cultural traditions," Brown says.

    Keynote speaker, writer, anthropologist and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence Wade Davis is similarly concerned by the accelerated, "stunning" loss of unique cultures worldwide. He remarks, "It's not a trivial thing, culture."

    Davis recently wrapped up production of a television series that includes a segment on Polynesian navigation. While Europeans once considered the widespread nature of Polynesian civilization accidental, he says, "These journeys were deliberate, repetitive, incredibly complex" akin, he says, to putting a man on the moon.

    To Davis, this story is important "not simply because of the magnitude of Polynesian achievement, but because of what it tells us about a different way of knowing."

    Abadir echoes this sentiment, suggesting that summit attendees "spice it up" by visiting a session that they don't think is relevant to what they do. They'll find, she suspects, that it is.

    "Do the mosaic thing that's what this is all about," says Abadir.