Hawaii’s Saint Damien inspires art, artists and aloha shirtsby: Sherie Char
posted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 at 10:57 AM
Hawaii’s Father Damien was at the center of international interest earlier this month when he was canonized a saint by the Catholic Church in ceremonies at the Vatican.
Those ceremonies and celebrations in Rome are now over. But a tour of a Damien relic concludes in Hawaii this week, accompanied by many events happening at neighborhood churches and parishes statewide—click here for a complete schedule. A handful of Hawaii artists are also honoring Damien through their artworks.
Hawaii-born printmaker Maria Lee (pictured below) is one of many artists who have included images of Damien and Kalaupapa in her artwork. The idea for her exhibit, Kalaupapa: Keep In, Keep Out, was born after her work on a three-week National Park Service (NPS) project on Molokai’s remote peninsula, where Damien ministered to and cared for Hansen’s disease patients.
“I had the opportunity to meet patients and people employed in Kalaupapa—listening to and learning about their lives and personal histories,” says Lee. “I learned about leprosy’s devastation in the Hawaiian Islands, the consequences of isolation and stigma. I learned about those who died there, their hardships and sacrifices.”
The purpose of Lee’s three-week stay in Kalaupapa was to assess the condition of the headstones in the peninsula’s graveyard. As a member of the NPS conservation team, she counted and measured the cracks on each headstone.
“Most of the graves are crumbling and deteriorating,” says Lee. “It was our job to indicate which headstones needed repairs and which ones should be marked ‘high priority.’ We also indicated in the grave marker condition survey whether the inscriptions were readable or not. If these repairs aren’t made in time, valuable information will be lost forever. It’s important to preserve Hawaii’s history.”
Lee found headstones with inscriptions written in many languages, including Japanese and Chinese. She was also amazed at the sheer number of headstones on the peninsula.
Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Hawaii’s Saint Damien celebrated. Relic now on permanent display here.
Pope clears Father Damien for sainthood
Father Damien’s sainthood: Here's the complete TV and relic tour schedule