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Hawaii’s Saint Damien inspires art, artists and aloha shirts

Saint_Damien_Hawaii_art_aloha_shirts“The memory of Kalaupapa was so powerful,” says Lee. “I just knew I had to do something with it.”

A year later, in 2004, Lee did just that. Kalaupapa: Keep In, Keep Out is the result—a mixed-media exhibit portraying Kalaupapa as “a place where extraordinary beauty coexists with a tragic past.” Lee’s artwork incorporates the personal stories of former Hansen's disease patient Catherine Puahala, and many images of Damien.

The exhibit plays upon the ironic fact that a former place of exile—designed to keep Hansen’s disease patients in—is now governed by the state’s limited-access policy—designed to keep the general public out.

“Today, if you’re lucky, you might get an invitation,” she says.

Saint_Damien_Hawaii_art_aloha_shirtsLee’s right. In order to stay on the Kalaupapa peninsula, you must be invited by a Kalaupapa resident and have a state Department of Health permit.

The only other option is to book a trip through Damien Tours, a Molokai company that handles the permit process and runs a peninsula bus tour of Kalaupapa’s historical sites. (To inquire about a tour, call (808) 567-6171.)

Lee was born and raised in Honolulu, later moving to the Big Island of Hawaii ranching community of Waimea with her family. Creativity runs in her family. Lee’s father, the late Tom Lee, was a graphic artist who created logos for First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) and Honolulu’s Board of Water Supply. Although many of her family members still live in Hawaii, Lee resides in Tucson, Ariz., and teaches at Pima Community College. Lee returns home to the Islands whenever she can.

Kalaupapa: Keep In, Keep Out is on display at downtown Honolulu’s Pauahi Tower until Oct. 31.

[Pauahi Tower at Bishop Square, 1003 Bishop St., Honolulu. Call (808) 545-7500.]

Saint_Damien_Hawaii_art_aloha_shirtsA short walk up Bishop Street from Lee’s exhibit is the Honolulu Printmakers’ Damien-inspired exhibit at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace’s Cathedral Gallery. Damien was ordained as a priest at the cathedral in 1864. The cathedral will also be the final resting place of the Damien relic currently touring the Islands.

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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

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