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THINKING NATIVE

THINKING NATIVE

I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s an artist thing to ponder frequently on the direction you want to head.   (You tend to spend a lot of time making course-corrections when you’re flying by the seat of your pants, I find.)

I have been musing on this a lot lately.  I think I am trying, in all my work – in my art, my poetry, my writing and even in my property management gig —  to incorporate the Oceanic mindsets in which I’ve been steeped.

Oceania includes Australia, New Guinea, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.   Adrienne L. Kaeppler, in her book THE PACIFIC ARTS OF POLYNESIA AND MICRONESIA postulates that the goal of Oceanic art is to produce fine art that makes Pacific themes understandable in today’s worlds.  She points out that contemporary Oceanic artists don’t slavishly copy old products or art processes.  Their work is based, instead on knowledge of traditional aesthetic systems.  She goes into detail, explaining this concept of hers.

THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR AUDIENCE (CUSTOMERS)

One very real aspect of doing work that arises out of an indigenous mindset is the awareness of the importance of the audience.  (For a business person, I suppose that would be your customers.)

I remember watching a friend (a sculptor of stones) looking at and appreciating the Light of My Life’s rock work.  He did a series of petroglyph carvings on rocks that he set in a spiral in the yard as a memorial for his dad who had died at the beginning of that year of carving.  He was also aiming at honoring the old Hawaiians who taught him so much when he first came to the island.

petroglyph-labyrinth
Petroglyph Labyrinth. Art by Mathew Westcott

Mat’s petroglyphs basically arose out of traditional Hawaiian motifs but they are definitely not exact copies of the old stuff.  Each bit is layered with a superficial theme and then deeper kaona, inner meaning, metaphor, and symbolism.

 

My friend Cecilia didn’t understand the cultural references at all and may not have even been aware of them, but she did appreciate that there were layers of meaning in there.  Just knowing that deepened the experience of the things for her, I think.  It could be, too, that Cecilia is particularly sensitive to stone her own self and that also was an enriching factor.

LAYERS AND LAYERS AND LAYERS

It’s important, I think, to remember that the layers incorporated in a work may be deep or shallow.  The one looking at it brings his or her own world and views to it as well.  Hmmm….

Native scholar Greg Cajete has written that in indigenous ways of thinking, we understand a thing only when we understand it with all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion and spirit. My goal is to make art and poetry that tap into these indigenous ways of knowing….

People are affected by my poetry because they arise out of my life experiences that are mirrors of their own.  Everyone has experienced loss.  Everyone has experienced anger, betrayal, disappointment and pain.  Everyone has experienced joy.  Everyone makes decisions about the paths they will take and the ones they will not.

This is what I share with others – my own paths toward grace.   For me, the paths that lead to grace are buried in the detritus of the everyday and they are also illuminated by my own cultural understandings and mindsets.  My mission seems to have been about finding the paths and byways that resonate with me, marking them, trying to follow them.

MAKING THE CONNECT

As for my audience, well…I am still trying to suss that one out.  A new book has just come out that addresses that very question.  Nicholas J. Webb, a popular speaker and corporate strategist, has written a new book, WHAT CUSTOMERS CRAVE:  How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint

Webb has spent 25 years helping people gain insights into what their customers want.  His company, Cravve, provides counseling and training in customer design and innovation for many of the world’s top brands.  This book tells you how you, too, can figure out what all those eyes that you’re trying to get to notice you are wanting to see.

In this YouTube podcast posted by CT Corporation (a subsidiary of Wulters Kluwer) as part of their business marketing “toolbox,” Webb talks about his ideas for dealing with “touch points” – the places where you connect with other people.  As I listened to the podcast, it struck me that Webb’s ideas are all about making good connections.  They are positively Oceanic in mindset.

 

(Wulters Kluwer is a multi-national information services company based in the Netherlands with operations in over 35 countries.  CT Corporation is “the largest registered agent service firm in the world representing hundreds of thousands of business entities worldwide. It provides software and services that legal professionals use,” it says here.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My audience is probably going to be made up of the people who are trying to do the same as me, people who are trying to add mana and meaning to their own everyday lives.  I think there may be a market somewhere in all that.  I just need to refine my walk so that I can connect with the people who are already working on that their own selves.

As I am learning my craft and learning more about my market, my real reward will be spending a bunch of time in what I call “Little-G World”…where I can be just like a little god, making it all up as I go along.  That is a cool thing, I am thinking.

Also, I am thinking that the late, great Ray Kroc once said, “If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.”  In WHAT CUSTOMERS CRAVE, Webb helps you figure out how to influence other people to love you for doing what you love.  This, too, is a good thing…and it’s very Oceanic.

And here’s a poem:


CONNECTING THE DOTS

Art.

What is art?

Art is not a piece of work.

It is a reaching inward and a coming back.

 

Artist.

What is an artist?

What are artists for real if they are more than

The producers of pretty objects

Meant to cover up some wall space or match a couch.

 

We are the keepers.

We hold.

We are the seekers and explorers.

We go.

We are the lost ones.

We come back.

We are the messengers.

We carry the dreams.

 

We look forward and see what can be.

We look back and see what was.

We look outward and see illusion.

We look inward and we wonder.

We accept what-is and build from it.

We accept what-is and choose the good.

We accept what-is and work for change.

 

Native.

What is that?

It is a way of life,

It is a way of being.

It is a reaching forward and a coming back.

It is looking inward and looking outward.

The way of Art is the way of the Native.

It is walking in Beauty and taking it in;

It is holding the Beauty and pumping it back out.

 

This is Native.

This is Artist.

It is a way of being.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Oceania Boards by Karen Green via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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