Kua`aina Associates is an Indigenous-led non-profit organization founded in 2005 by a Native Hawaiian and Māori person each recognizing their kuleana (responsibility) to bring together their collective years and experience as cultural stewards.
Throughout time, Indigenous people have maintained a deep respect and love for their environment, honoring each plant and stone as living beings like themselves. Indigenous peoples' understanding of the intrinsic connection between the earth and their existence upon it results in a naturally sustainable way of living, rooted in concepts of non-wasteful consumption; nurturing the environment, as they in turn are nurtured.
This connection also manifested in art forms that reflected the importance of natural surrounding—from cave paintings and petroglyphs—to the use of materials such as clay, wood, and fiber for the creation of utilitarian art. These ancient practices tell the stories of peoples and cultures in historical terms of how they lived, as well as on a deeper level of what they believed and what they valued.
Kua`aina acknowledges the timeless wisdom of Indigenous knowledge and the value of the cultural bearers of today. We believe that artists and cultural workers play a vital role in maintaining the storehouse of cultural knowledge. We celebrate a new generation of indigenous artists—modern-day storytellers who will carry the work onto the next generation.
Our mission is to perpetuate Indigenous cultures and arts by supporting projects that provide opportunities for artists, cultural workers, and cultural masters. By doing so, we envision a universal message of peace, compassion, tolerance, and the healing of Mother Earth and all that lives within her.
Our goals are to assist Indigenous artists and Indigenous-led groups and organizations in preserving the wisdom of their ancestors through traditional and contemporary arts, and cultural practices. We believe that artists and cultural workers are the keepers of old stories and storytellers of the new. They play a vital role in maintaining the storehouse of cultural knowledge.
We provide capacity-building assistance to Indigenous-led cultural organizations as well as program support to individual artists, cultural workers, and cultural masters. We produce special art and cultural projects, and provide consultation to funders, art institutions, and museums.
To provide these services, our team brings to a project an array of expertise:
We believe that working collectively on a project provides an opportunity for a more monumental outcome and integrates the lifeways of cultural and artistic expression.
Carolyn Melenani Kuali`i
Co-founder / Executive Director
Carolyn was born on the island of O`ahu to a mother of both Native Hawaiian and Apache ancestry and raised by her Native Hawaiian grandmother. She brings to Kua`aina her background in program development and management, and her extensive experience in providing capacity-building assistance to community-based organizations and individual artists. Carolyn had the great fortune to serve under the mentorship of two cultural masters: Sam Kaha`ieuanalio Ka`ai, awardee of Nā Mamo Makamae o Ka Po`e Hawai`i: Living Treasures of the Hawaiian People, and Katherine Siva Saubel, Cahuilla historian and language scholar and the first American Indian woman inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Moana is Māori from the Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Porou tribes of Aotearoa. As a Polynesian cultural specialist, Moana has worked extensively with Polynesian traditional artists to perpetuate and showcase their various art forms. Moana served as the producer of the Lahaina International Canoe Festival that has been instrumental in reviving the art of traditional canoe building throughout the Pacific.
Board of Directors
Sekio was born in Utulei, Tutuila, America Samoa and raised and educated in San Francisco. He brings to Kua`aina his expertise and networks in the Pacific Island communities and his experience and connections to cultural masters from the Pacific and the Pacific North West. After serving in the military during the Vietnam War, Sekio went back to school on the GI Bill and earned his MA in painting from Sacramento State University and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in painting. Sekio continues to paint and is influenced by the traditions of his Samoan heritage, navigating the seas and humanity by the stars, winds, and songs. He is an advisor for Samoan Solutions and Camp Unity, a community-based Samoan youth organization in San Francisco.
Paul Kealoha Blake
Board of Directors
Paul was born on Maui and raised on O`ahu. He brings to Kua`aina experience in nonprofit management, and media and new technology production. A Hawaiian videographer, musician, and cultural activist, Paul has collaborated on numerous media projects across the U.S. and internationally. He is the co-founder and the co-director of the East Bay Media Center in Berkeley, Califorian, which provides technical and educational access to communities with a special emphasis on communities of color. Paul pioneered the camcorder and personal computer video revolution by being the first production/post-production organization to offer integrated video/computer workstations. He created specialized training programs to provide independent producers and organizations with the necessary tools for navigating new technologies and developed training programs for people with disabilities. With the grant support of the California Arts Council and the Vanguard Foundation, Paul provided the basis for a variety of programming including African Connections, Pacific Wave, Barrier Free TV, Video 99, and Berkeley MuzikTV. Paul is also the co-curator of the Berkeley Video & Film Festival.
Board of Directors
Jeanette is a Filipina and an adopted daughter of a Chumash family. Jeanette brings to Kua`aina her experience and knowledge of the performing arts world along with the blend of artistic expression and indigenous land use management. A lifelong student of music, she began her music career as a child prodigy performing throughout Europe and later studied music at Cal Arts and UCLA. Jeanette has played keyboard for artist such as Taj Mahal and John Trudell and composed music for TV shows such as "Falcon Crest" and "Murphy’s Law," which she was nominated for an Emmy Award. Jeanette’s many accomplishments also include working for MBST Entertainment, where she managed the careers of John Pizzarelli, Bucky Pizzarelli, Mindi Abair, and assisted with the business affairs of Woody Allen, The Beatles, The Estate of George Harrison, and The Estate of Frank Zappa. Jeanette’s life journey has brought her to the practice of Kundalini yoga and meditation, and she is currently a certified permaculture instructor designer of permaculture principles, and specializes in maritime culture, herbalism, ethnobotany, and biodynamic principles. In her work, she emphasizes humankind’s symbiotic relationship between earth and sky.
Tia of Whaea Productions is Indigenous from the Ngāpuhi/Te Aupōuri Nations of Aotearoa (New Zealand), lives on Coast Salish Territory of Turtle Island (North America/Canada), and was born in the Koolin Nations (Melbourne Australia).
L. is a California Indian of the Tongva/Ajachmem tribes and is a respected artist, tribal scholar, cartoonist, language advocate, and self-described "decolonizationist".
Carolyn is the co-founder of Kua`aina Associates and is Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) and Apache.
Kapulani is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) artist who is best known for her work in black-and-white photography. Kapulani celebrates Native Hawaiian culture while also addressing the legacies of colonialism and its impact on Indigenous Hawaiian rights, values, and history.
Your donation will be used to support Kua`aina’s general operations and projects. 10% of Kua`aina’s revenue goes to our “Aloha an Artist” fund that provides honoraria to artists in need.