Native Hawaiian Artist Fellowship Awards

Native Hawaiian Artist Fellowship Awards

The twelve Native Hawaiian artists to receive the 2015 award were selected through a rigorous selection process among more than 150 applications throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the continental United States. The fellowships recognize exceptional Native Hawaiian artists who have made a significant impact in the fields of visual arts, dance, music, and traditional arts.

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) announces twelve awardees for its inaugural 2015 NACF Native Hawaiian Artist Fellowships as follows:

Robert Cazimero (Oahu), Kaui Kanakaole (Maui) and Vicky Takamine (Oahu) for Dance

Robi Kahakalau (Hawai'i), Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole (Hawai'i) and Liko Martin (Oahu) for Music

G. Umi Kai (Oahu), Marques Marzan (Oahu) and Dalani Tanahy (Oahu) for Traditional Arts

Bernice Akamine (Oahu), Abigail Romanchak (Oahu) and Maika'i Tubbs (Oahu) for Visual Arts.


Vicky Holt Takamine

The respected kumu hula and cultural advocate, whose choreography, performances and tutelage have touched the lives of many and inspired next generations of culture makers, will use her fellowship to develop new works in honor of Queen Lili'uokalani, the last queen of Hawai'i.  She will collaborate with other kumu hula, halau and storytellers to research and bring to life chants and hula composed by and for Queen Lili. Takamine's works will celebrate the queen's life and accomplishments and be performed in memorial performances throughout 2017, the 100th year anniversary of the last queen's death.

Robert Cazimero

The beloved kumu hula of Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua, who has taught next generations of male dancers for over 40 years, and dedicated his celebrated career to the revitalization and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian music and dance, will use his fellowship to recreate in performance Ka 'Aha Kilu Le'ale'a I Ka'akopua at the Festival Na Hiwahiwa o Hawaii 2015 event in Japan in September 2015.  The twenty-five time Na Hoku Hanohano award winning legend originally prepared and choreographed the performance, based on the epic tale of the goddess Pele, with 20 dancers and five chanters, for premiere at the Merrie Monarch 2015 Hula Competition, where it took top honors.  The invitation to perform at the festival in Japan is only open to Merrie Monarch award winners.

Kaui Kanaka'ole

An 'Olapa in the Halau o Kekuhi, Kaui is committed to carrying forward the ancient stories, and traditions and dances of her ancestors, and will use her fellowship to undertake mentorship as part of her journey to become a kumu hula.  Active in regional efforts to improve community health, she sees the foundational value of hula in maintaining her community's identity and dignity.  In addition to testing her abilities to choreographer and to train dancer, the mentorship will lead Kaui to publishing a book on the Native Hawaiian creative process.


Robi Kahakalau

The renowned lead singer for The Hawaiian Style Band is active in the Hawaiian language revitalization movement. The Na Hoku Hanohano award winning singer and musician will use her fellowship to compose a collection of music and accompanying curriculum to teach Native Hawaiian pre-school age children language and heritage through music. compose, teach and record a collection of songs in the Native Hawaiian language to empower next generations of heritage language speakers through music. Through this Music Energizes Language Education or MELE project, Kahakalau will create language learning and heritage products for pre-school age Native Hawaiian children about their unique heritage. The MELE collection will include a teaching module for the 20 Native Hawaiian language songs focused on specific topics.

Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole

The openly Transgender recording artist and kumu hula, grounded in the traditions of hula and ha'a, composes mele oli, and choreographs performances for Halau O Kekuhi. Her fellowship will allow the Na Hoku Hanohano award winning performer to create a series of hula and ha'a presentations based on the rituals of the goddess Pele tradition from the Malaeha'aho'a text. During her fellowship year, she will choreograph, collaborate, and compose new chant verses and stage presentations with her family to create bodies of work ready to tour in 2016.

Liko Martin

Legendary songwriter Liko Martin's music and personal conviction has remained for decades on the front lines of two important movements for his people – to promote a Native Hawaiian cultural renaissance and aloha 'aina, demonstrating a deep love and respect for the land and the sea. Martin, who has composed some of the most famous and popular songs of Hawaii will continue work on "The Song of the Sandwich Islands," a two-hour long rock opera with a cast of 21 performers retelling the joys, tragedies, love and survival issues of the Native Hawaiian Renaissance movement. Martin also plans to write new compositions, release a recording with Laulani Teale and issue a recording of original family compositions featuring his mother Marion Shim, Andy Cummings and Gabby Pahinui.

Visual Arts

Abigail Romanchak

The printmaker, known for work that perpetuates Native Hawaiian culture and perspectives on the imprint human beings and technology create on the natural environment, will use her fellowship to create a new series of large-scale prints addressing climate change and sea levels rising due to global warming.  The new body of work will address the impact of climate change in Hawaii. A series of large-scale woodcut prints will be exhibited locally and internationally, to bring attention to the impact rising sea levels due to global warming are having in Hawaii. Romanchak intends to debut the new series in a group exhibition of Native Hawaiian artists at the Lower Saxton State Museum in Hanover, Germany, in 2016.

Maika'i Tubbs

The visual artist, known for exploring the beauty and possibilities at the intersection of things natural and man made, through art he creates from reclaimed, recycled and found materials, will use his fellowship to collaborate with communities in Hawaii to clear the coastline of an estimated 2,000 pounds of waste and debris to create art that address the challenge of creating sustainable coastal environments.  A forager at heart, the widely-exhibited artist extracts his art supplies from what's readily available, making ink from feeding discarded colored paper into a high-speed blender and creating sculpture molds from plastic jugs and his own recipe for natural homemade glue.  Tubbs will collaborate with communities and volunteers in Hawaii to create works that address the challenge of creating sustainable coastal environments. Found materials will be sorted and repurposed for art projects and remaining refuse will be recycled. The resulting art will be exhibited in 2016.

Bernice Akamine

The visual artist, known for the abstract glass sculptures and vessels she creates with smooth flowing lines, often covered with a form-fitted skin of texture and color, will use her fellowship to complete Kalo, a traveling installation of 79 plants made of stone and newsprint to be exhibited in honor of Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii.  A kumu in the methods of creating and using waiho'olu'u, or natural plant dyes, and beaten-bark kapa cloth, the artist will create newsprint petals on each plant featuring handwritten renditions of each island's Native boundaries or ahupua'a on one side, with copies of the hundreds of signed petitions against the U.S. annexation of Hawaii on the other. After exhibiting in Hawaii and beyond, the artist will give each plant to the 23 listed Homestead Associations and 10 Native Hawaiian centers in community colleges and universities across the state.

Traditional Arts

Marques Marzan

The widely exhibited fiber artist, who creates sculpture, wearable art and traditional art that are objects of beauty vital to his community's ability to practice the living traditions of their culture, will use his fellowship to revive the lost art of creating pe'ahi, the Hawaiian chiefly fan.  There are only 20 known fans in existence, and the knowledge of how they were created has been lost.  Marzan, the cultural resources specialist for the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, has studied the fans for years in preparation for the opportunity to revive the time-intensive art made from expensive traditional materials.

Dalani Tanahy

A master of the traditional art of kapa making, Tanahy creates textured fabric from the bark of the wauke or paper mulberry tree in a process perfected over centuries by Native Hawaiian culture makers, will use her fellowship to create a series of works exploring the continual innovations in kapa design from the time of contact with Western cultures to today.  The artist's work spans many disciplines, from horticulture to natural dye production, from graphic design to research, and the works she creates will feature in her first solo exhibition which will present a series exploring the continual innovations in kapa design from the time of contact with Western cultures to present day. The new works will be presented as wearable art in a show with a working title of "Woman Makes the Malo Makes the Man" in Fall 2015.

G. Umi Kai

A master of Native Hawaiian arts known especially for the weapons he creates, G. Umi Kai works in bone, wood, shark's teeth and natural cordage employing pre-colonial techniques and tools, creating objects used daily by his community in fishing, farming, making kapa, pounding poi, practicing hula and martial arts.  He will use his fellowship to launch a traditional arts master-apprentice program to teach next generations to create Native Hawaiian cultural objects and weaponry. From teaching high school seniors to carve graduation fishhook necklaces to teaching net making in community crab fishing revitalization projects, Kai shares his knowledge generously.  Featured in many collections, his work highlights the meticulous approach to invention and refinement characteristic of Native Hawaiian culture.  He will teach ten students how to research the form and use of traditional implements, how to make them and how to integrate the historical importance of those tools into a contemporary context.