Lahaina keiki publish their own art book, find solace in a creative outlet after the fires: Maui Now – cialisdfr
Lahaina keiki publish their own art book, find solace in a creative outlet after the fires: Maui Now
Lahaina keiki publish their own art book, find solace in a creative outlet after the fires: Maui Now

Lahaina keiki publish their own art book, find solace in a creative outlet after the fires: Maui Now
Honokōwai Hub students find comfort in creative outlet after fires.

A group of students affected by the August 2023 Lahaina wildfire wrote and illustrated their own book, which was published with the help of the Lahaina Art Guild.

The Honokōwai Learning Hub was established shortly after the fires. This group was dedicated to supporting keiki and providing a creative outlet for their emotions and a safe, comfortable space to express themselves through art and writing.

Teacher and volunteer DeAnna Duncan inspired the students to help write and illustrate their collaborative creation — called “Makai Loves Books!” — then she arranged for the book to be published.

Makai loves books!

Duncan spent years as a high school teacher in Tennessee, guiding students in visual art, dance, and audio/visual production. An artist herself, Duncan came out of early retirement after moving to West Maui and connecting with the Lahaina Arts Guild (LAG)/Lahaina Arts Society (LAS), where she began volunteering to teach art at King Kamehameha III Elementary School with the renowned artist Kirk Boes. Duncan said she fell in love with keiki, the teachers and the school itself, happily welcoming this new chapter in her life to connect children with art.

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“The day before the fire, Kirk and I had planned to go to the courthouse and do an inventory of our items since the new school year was upon us. We were excited to get back to classes with our keiki. That inventory never happened,” Duncan recalled. “Within days of the fire, director Bill Smith let us know he had no plans to end LAS and LAG. We regrouped amid the chaos and shock and made plans to locate our keiki in community centers to offer art and healing—for them and for us.”

Thanks to donations of art supplies, about two weeks after the fire, the group was able to begin offering art at some of the hotel sites and volunteer time at the centers.

Robert Livermore, a teacher from King Kamehameha III, immediately began teaching keiki after the fire. He settled on Airport Beach, then Napili Park Hub. He worked tirelessly with other educators and volunteers to make sure the keiki had a place to learn and be with friends. For weeks they attended “school” in the park.

Volunteer Rita McClintock helped with further organization and found a place that offered an indoor setting with regular hours for families. The Koinonia Pentecostal Church in Honokōwai kindly opened its doors to the group in early September. With news of schools opening in mid-October, Duncan said they are relieved to be a bridge to keep these keiki together until they can return to school. Many volunteers and parents helped along the way, including Rita McClintock, Riley Bond and Duncan’s teacher Zoe Mason.

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“We had between 14 and 20 keiki, ranging from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Our days were busy, but they always started with sharing a book and writing in our journals,” she explains. “This group has become a close-knit family. Every day the keiki wrote in their journals, and most days they wrote that they were grateful to their friends and teachers. I called it our “one room school”. The older keiki helped us with the younger one and we read, told stories, learned and created art together.”

The children’s favorite stories were by Peter H. Reynolds. Duncan says they are fascinated by the fact that he is an author and illustrator of his books. She reached out to Reynolds and he sent a message of support to the keiki.

“You’d think they were talking to a rock star,” Duncan laughed. “They wanted to show him their appreciation, but they didn’t think they could do what he does so well. I asked them “why not?” And that started our process of writing and illustrating their own book!”

Three young people showed particular interest in creating their own books: Makai, Ulises and Alena. Duncan took time each day to brainstorm their ideas and they came up with their own story. They started with an outline and then all three wrote parts of the story. After they finished the story, she gave them a list of the pages and how many illustrations were needed to complete the book. Ulises and Makai created the characters with the help of Alena. They worked for three weeks on the book.

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On the last day of the learning center before these keiki went back to school, there were many tearful goodbyes. Duncan promised his young artists and authors that he would compile their book together for them. True to her word, she digitally recreated their writing and illustrations, the Lahaina Arts Guild covered production costs, and their creation, “Makai Loves Books,” made its way to online self-publishing.

Center families, teachers and volunteers will gather for a book signing with the young authors on Tuesday, March 26, at Maui Kū’ia Chocolate, 78 Ulupono Street in Lahaina, to present students with their special books.

“I want to make sure I keep the promise I made to Alena, Yulis, and Makai,” Duncan said. “The resilience these keiki have shown us has been an integral part of the healing that is happening here in Lahaina. They showed us that we are grateful to each other, we love learning and we are confident that we can make something beautiful together even in the darkest of times.”

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