kuana‘ike: gaining perspective

Every summer, Punahou’s chaplains select a theme for the upcoming school year, something they believe resonates with the time, spirit and sentiment. This year, they chose “perspective” and its partner concept in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i – “kuana‘ike.”

[kuanike]

Kuana‘ike reflects how we see the world, which serves as the basis of how we live and respond to events. “When we seek to put things in perspective, pulling back from details and looking at the bigger picture, we can become open to new ways of thinking,” the chaplains wrote in a message, announcing the theme. After consulting with Hawaiian language kumu, the chaplains wondered if kuana‘ike could inspire our community to view the world with a broader lens, as the globe continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial strife and political divisions.

This year is anything but ordinary, thus more than ever, it’s important to reflect and gain perspective. Schools across the country, including Punahou, started the new school year in distance learning. Hawai‘i went through a second lockdown this fall to curb the spread of the virus. Longtime School traditions are moving to virtual platforms. Alumni all over the globe are tackling job losses, emotional unrest, separation from family and friends and countless other disruptions. The challenge to embrace perspective is indeed fitting.

To show how this theme may be interpreted, we asked several notable alumni photographers, along with our School photographer and two faculty members, to submit photos that reveal kuana‘ike through the lens of their own lives. We were mesmerized by what we received, and how these visual artists articulated the theme so profoundly.

We hope this exhibit offers comfort and reprieve, inspiring and encouraging you to consider perspective as we make our way through the school year, confronting whatever challenges lie ahead, with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart.

– Diane Seo ’85

A surfer’s view out of a shorebreak wave breaking in the crystal clear water of O‘ahu’s North Shore. Time is frozen, creating an opportunity to inspect up close a unique phenomenon.

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I was fortunate to photograph my grandmother at the age of 94. When I look at this image, it gives me strength and hope knowing she had lived and survived through many historic events and challenges.

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It has been my blessing – and curse – in life to have insatiable wanderlust. The need to travel to the farthest places my imagination can go, to smell all the smells and taste all the flavors and to live a hundred lives in countless places.

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Since 2001, I have led photo and video field trips to the Neighbor Islands with 12 to 20 Academy art students.

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The exotic endemic maiapilo plant (Capparis sandwichiana), on the way to La Perouse Bay in Maui at dawn, thriving in a stark environment.

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This is a photograph, literally, of a crew member wayfinding aboard Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hōkū-le‘a, during a moonlit night on a nine-day sail from Hawai‘i to Palmyra Atoll.

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My mother-in-law once told me it’s a combination of kuana‘ike and kuleana that dictate the path of our family history – past, present and future.

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When I first got a drone in 2018, I was astonished at the different perspective it yielded, particularly when looking at the surf. When you’re in the water navigating a wave, your focus is singular.

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This was shot at Pipeline, on the North Shore of O‘ahu, a moment of calm before the approaching storm, but just like these times, the storm will pass. Find your solitude and ride the wave.

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While on assignment through the years at Punahou, I’ve been fortunate to witness countless connections, from the excited kindergartners who spent weeks rehearsing together to perform for their families on May Day, to those joyful moments when alumni spot familiar faces and reunite during Alumni Week.

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