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New sculptures at Honolulu Hale show past, present and potential of Hawaiʻi

"Pū Hala with Memory" by Amber Khan
Marion Cadora
City and County of Honolulu
"Pū Hala with Memory" by Amber Khan

Honolulu Hale Courtyard is adorned with three colorful large-scale sculptures made by local artist Amber Khan.

There’s a turtle wearing a cowboy hat, a bust with a quilt pattern covering the face, and a tree with a shark tooth tattoo and myna bird sitting on the branches.

Viewers can sit in the chair attached to the sculpture of the tree, and look into the mirror in front of them to complete the work.

Each work incorporates something from Hawaiian history and contemporary local culture. Besides the papier-mache, there are also found objects such as rocks and plants used in the sculpture.

"I did have a little bit of trouble looking at the history of Honolulu Hale and fitting that into my work. But it was perfect because that’s what my work is about. It’s about looking at the history of colonialism and attempting to retell those stories," Khan told HPR.

Khan’s exhibit mixes symbolism from different eras of Hawaiʻi’s history into each sculpture. But she wasn’t always comfortable with her relationship to the islands.

Khan was born in New York and grew up in Honolulu in a multicultural household.

She felt like an outsider until she moved off-island to pursue a graduate degree in art.

"A lot of what I thought I knew growing up was like it has to be one thing. But you can be nomadic with it and it’s okay. Because home is really where you feel most comfortable, and it can be more than one place," said Khan.

Khan’s “Recollecting Poi, Pikake and Paniolos” exhibit will be available to view through Sept. 30 inside Honolulu Hale.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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