Wall art at Hawaii Convention Center at center of controversy

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Sep 05 2013 05:37:00 PM HST

An artwork in the Hawaii Convention Center is covered up after complaints of culturally offensive depictions.

HONOLULU -

It's called "Forgotten Inheritance" and now, the giant wall art piece is literally out of sight.

Draped in a black cloth, it is hidden from view because a native Hawaiian descendant of the area found a depiction of bones in the sand--- offensive.

"It is a significant sign of disrespect to leave them exposed like that," said attorney Moses Haia.

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation represents Paulette Kaleikini, a recognized descendant of the area. She complained about the insensitivity when the the concrete bronze and plaster work by Hans Ladislaus was first displayed in 1997.

Now a more than a decade and a half later, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is deferring to those concerns.

"It is a depiction that represents that is it accepted and that it is artful and tasteful, but based on our clients cultural practices, it is anything but that," said Haia.

This flap comes in the middle of the 12th annual Native Hawaiian Convention. It was Wednesday night that a group gathered for a blessing before they covered up the art piece.

Among those attending the convention, Representative Faye Hanohano, who earlier this year was embroiled in an artwork controversy of her own.

The native Hawaiian lawmaker had art of non-native artists removed from her office.

But Hanohano was surprised to learn of this latest controversy.

When asked what you say to the artist, who probably did not mean any disrespect, Hanohano replied,

"I would say what the problem is. I would ask for his input and let him know that we have a process to make it correct. Maybe he could talk to the families and see how he could they could work it out."

HTA Head Mike McCartney said he is working with the State Foundation on culture and the arts to replace the artwork.

He released a statement saying: "It is important to honor and perpetuate our host culture and we are looking to include more pieces by native Hawaiians."

 But the foundation said the work is permanently mounted and removing it without structural work on the convention center, would destroy it.

It also added, "...under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, the state foundation cannot alter or cover part of all of the work, without the artist permission."

The art piece cost $56,000.  

Artist Hans Ladislaus could not be reached for comment.

Kaleikini said it was her understandingthat Ladislaus gave his permission for the piece to be covered up until it could be removed to be display at another location.

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