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Marzan, Marques Hanalei (on native art)

Camille Naluai
April 2004

Marques Hanalei Marzan grew up in Ha‘ik ū on the island of O‘ahu. The ancient art of lauhala weaving runs in the family. Until Marzan began weaving, his great-grandmother had been the last one in his family to create with lauhala. A graduate of the University of Hawai‘i, Marzan perpetuates the Hawaiian culture through this ancient craft.

Camille: Tell us about who you are and what you do?

Marques: I grew up in K ā ne‘ohe. I went to school at Castle. Then I went to the University UH Mānoa.

Camille: What year was that?

Marques: I graduated in ’97 from Castle and then I went straight into UH Mānoa. I had a major of art and a focus in fiber. That’s what I studied throughout my time there. I learned all different kinds of techniques from different cultures. I really like to study more about the Pacific cultures. But I know a little about most global cultural techniques and fibers and stuff. Then I just started to create things with modern materials as well as incorporating traditional materials. Getting more sculptural than just the traditional flat functional utilitarian mats and cloth and stuff like that. I guess that’s how I got to this point.

Camille: What point are you at right now?

Marques: It’s a little more sculptural in design and then I try to incorporate different concepts that link up with the different sculptural forms that I try to do.

Camille: Were you always interested in modernizing this Hawaiian art form?

Marques: I’ve always been interested in working with my hands and making things. But while at the University, that’s when I started to just think of new things. Instead of using the more traditional stuff, it’s like, oh I could just use this piece of plastic and make something or find some rubbish on the ground and make something.

Camille: Was your cultural identity nurtured in that environment?

Marques: At the University I had Maile (Andrade) as one of my main teachers, and so she is really good at letting you explore everything you can. A lot of my other professors were very supportive of using cultural background, knowledge and concepts and incorporating them into your artwork. Yeah, I guess I would consider myself lucky to have the instructors that I did have. That allowed me to go in those directions that I wanted to.

Camille: You know, in my mind, when I think of lauhala weaving, I think of mats and baskets and hats and I also think of women. How did you get into it?

Marques: Well, traditionally that is a woman’s form of what she did. But in my family, my great-grandmother was the last weaver in my family. She passed away before I was born but my mother has some of the things she actually wove. She actually wove some mats and she wove p ā pale. My mother retained some of the hats she did make. My grandfather was the only child in the family that my great-grandmother made things for because none of the other children wanted any of that stuff. My grandfather got his hat, and all my uncles and mom had all their own hats because of my grandpa and the relationship they had. So, nobody else in the family had things made by my great-grandmother. When I grew up I always saw those hats and my mother would say to me, oh this is what your great grand-mother did. Nobody else in the family wanted to learn because when my great-grandmother wanted to teach my mom’s aunty, they didn’t want to, they ran away, they didn’t want to do any of that stuff. Actually, I got a chance to come to the museum when I was still in high school. During the year they had courses like quilting and seed lei making and lauhala making was one of them. So I took one of those classes.

Camille: That’s kind of where it all started?

Marques: Pretty much started, from my great-grandmother, looking at her hats yet never actually doing it while I was growing up and then coming here for the class.

Camille: It’s that part of her in you saying go there?

Marques: Yeah, that’s what my mom said too.

Camille: What do you do here at Bishop Museum?

Marques: I work in the collections division of the museum. So all of the artifacts on display all the things that are in the back, closed collections I take care of.

Camille: Do those things influence your work?

Marques: Oh, definitely. Just being around them seeing the things of the past, of our ancestors, really makes me think of things a little more differently then how I would have thought if I didn’t see them.

Camille: Do you ever try to put any political stance on your art or is it just good fun?

Marques: There is a good fun aspect of it. Sometimes when there are specific issues that I’d like to show in my work I really try to incorporate that idea into the works. Not all of my work is like that but when there is a time when I want to emphasize something, I do.