Story by Stu Dawrs
Drawing by David Kalama, Jr.
Photos by Linny Morris
David Kalama, Jr. is standing in Hawaiian Hall, much as he has done dozens of times the past several weeks, just as he will for a total of fifty-four days over the course of four months. Looking, thinking. Drawing on a poster-size artist’s pad. He does this for up to six hours at a time, always standing, working until the hall’s soft lighting strains his eyes. This latest charcoal rendering is the nineteenth in a series, and he’s on track to have at least twenty-one done in the end. Each is from a different angle, but the subject and style are the same: statue on white background, rendered in high contrast to sharpen every intricate detail of the original. The sculpture he’s so carefully studying is one of only three such examples in the world; the other two are, for now, right beside it.
Through the days, David has also been carefully observing people as they come and go, some in large groups to offer ritual pule (prayers) and ho‘okupu (gifts); others alone, communing silently. Some tourists tell him they find the statues frightening, some beautiful. Some just walk by, captivated instead by the life-size whale model hanging from the ceiling.
Many stop to ask questions about David’s drawings—he answers softly, with a kind smile, still drawing. He’s often mistaken for a museum employee, which isn’t surprising: With his flowing gray hair, aloha shirt and gentle demeanor, he looks the part of a brilliant if eccentric curator. But he has an altogether different day job, and what he’s doing here is strictly a labor of love: This is his once in a lifetime opportunity to document a gathering of gods.