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Open Access Publications from the University of California

About the Art: Carl Franklin Kaʻailāʻau Pao’s Kiʻi Kupuna: ʻO ʻAilāʻau (Ancestral Images: Forest Eater) Series


In his most recent series of paintings titled Kiʻi Kupuna: ʻO ʻAilāʻau (Ancestral Images: Forest Eater), Native Hawaiian artist Carl Franklin Kaʻailāʻau Pao reflects on the volcano deity ʻAilāʻau, who predates the more popularly known goddess Pele in the Hawaiian pantheon. Over the last century, ʻAilāʻau’s story has largely fallen into obscurity. However, the eruption of Kīlauea volcano on Hawaiʻi Island in 2018 heralded what many kūpuna (elders) and cultural practitioners believed to be the triumphant return of the god. Pao’s new, experimental works seek to place ʻAilāʻau at the center of collective remembering once again—not as a challenger to the Pele narratives, but as a coequal in a more diverse, deeper, and complex storyline.

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