Edna Cabcabin Moran was one of the first persons to comment on Multiculturalism Rocks! I consequently visited her website and fell in love with her technique and colorful illustrations. In addition, I purchased one of her books, The Sleeping Giant—published by BeachHouse Publishing, and had ever since dreamed to interview her.
I’m normally mindful of keeping the questions to a reasonably low number, but with Edna I was eager to chat about both her art and her life in Haiwai’i; therefore this interview is divided in two parts. Enjoy! 🙂
Edna, I’m excited to welcome you on the blog. Thank you again for your time. You are of Filipino descent, and you grew up in Iceland and California. You later moved to Hawai’i. Iceland and Hawai’i seem so culturally different…
If I may ask, what impressed you the most in both places? What inspired your move to Hawai’i?
Iceland and Hawai’i are geologically and culturally striking–their volcanic landform
along with a rich tradition of stories from the sea-faring settlers beg to be recorded in
our hearts and minds. Almost everything about Iceland and Hawai’i permeates the
senses in broad strokes. How could I not be impressed?
My memories of Iceland are are largely based on its unique environment. I spent a lot
of time playing outdoors, picking wild blueberries which grew near our house, building
forts and houses from rocks and “boulders” and admiring the northern lights.
When I visited my family in Hawai’i, I was blown away by the beauty of O’ahu. The
Leeward side of O’ahu wasn’t very developed then. I recall a deep blue ocean vista
beyond a wide stretch of pineapple ﬁelds, spending the night in an old Plantation
house in Ewa Beach and hanging out at a halau (school of hula). I was obsessed with
returning to Hawai’i to live. So, I did. 🙂
How long did you live there?
After graduating from UH Manoa, I lived and worked in Honolulu for seven years.
How did your experience in Hawai’i prepare you for and inﬂuence the work you’re
It inspired my love of color. Ironically, I went through a black & white phase while in
school. My work was dark (not gruesome)—just pychologically tense and “emo.”;-)
When I moved back to CA and started building my portfolio, I tapped into memories of the lush greenery, sky-scape and ocean blues surrounding the islands.
What makes Hawai’i so unique?
Hawai’i is unique in many ways. You will ﬁnd ﬂora and fauna here that you won’t ﬁnd
anywhere else in the world. Historically and culturally, Hawai’i is the only state that
was once an industrialized nation with a history of monarchy which, sadly, was
overthrown by a business coup backed by the USA (a story rarely discussed in school
cirruculum.) The rich cultural and artistic traditions of Hawai’i are world-renowned but
greatly modiﬁed for commercial consumption. For example the “Tiki” is not of Hawaiian
origin but an imitation of Hawaiian and pan-Polynesian sculptures and religious
artifacts used for decorations at trendy bars. Modern Hawai’i is a melting pot of people
In Hawai’i, I had a relaxed, low-key island pace of living and walking speed. I resumed my fast walking speed when I returned to the mainland. Eventually, I grew used to the dull palette of colors in the city scape of the Bay Area compared to the sunny, colorful palette of tropical Hawaiian life.
In your book, The Sleeping Giant, you mention two different types of Hawaiian
storytelling: Mo’olelo and Ka’ao. Would you, please, tell us what they refer to? (personal note to Edna: your book gives such a wonderful explanation…)
Ka’ao storytelling is akin to tall tales and stories told for pure enjoyment and entertainment. Mo’olelo pertains to traditional stories and legends tied to the island’s cultural history.
My PB, The Sleeping Giant, is similar in plot to other ka’ao but it differs greatly in its premise and it contains themes and details of my own spinning. For instance, an earlier ka’ao version tells of a mysterious girl who shows up, out of the blue, and saves the day. My story makes the girl a familiar face–she is given a name and is introduced early on in the tale.
In a mo’olelo version of the Sleeping Giant, a key battle takes place between Kawelo
and the ruling chief of the time, Aikanaka. Using the art of stone-ﬁghting, Kawelo
becomes the victor and takes over the island domain. Chiefs Aikanaka and Kawelo
are actual ﬁgures in Hawaii’s history. They are remembered though mo’olelo tales
passed down from one generation to the next.
Have you learned as much as I did? Ready for more? Read the second part of the interview tomorrow. 🙂