|Laura Kina, "Omiyage" (panel 1 "Saimen" of 4), 30x30 in. embroidery and acrylic on linen, patchwork quilt border, 2012|
|Laura Kina, "Omiyage" (panel 2 "Kameichi" of 4), 30x30 in. embroidery and acrylic on linen, patchwork quilt border, 2012|
|Laura Kina, "Omiyage" (panel 3 "Hawaii" of 4), 30x30 in. embroidery and acrylic on linen, patchwork quilt border, 2012|
|Laura Kina, "Omiyage" (panel 4 "Air Force" of 4), 30x30 in. embroidery and acrylic on linen, patchwork quilt border, 2012|
Twelve Gates Arts is thrilled to host the inaugural showing of CARE Packag a small-scale international traveling show of five female artists of Asian descent. Taking inspiration from the concept of care package sent to each host country, artists Shelly Bahl, Shelly Jyoti, Laura Kina, Saira Wasim, and Anida Yoeu Ali created multi-media "gifts" to be shared with local audiences. Philadelphia is the city where packages destined for Europe after WWII were assembled for shipment by the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE, Inc.); now it is set to be the first city to receive this unique gift. The universal concept of a gift here acts as a stage for the artists' stories, which promise to tackle issues of nationhood, race, gender, religion, & economic exploitation.
About my new "Omiyage" series:
This piece is based on excerpts from an audio recording of my father giving a testimonial at his church about his father, who was largely absent from his life, for a special father's day service. The text is hand embroidered (by me....this takes forever!) and I painted the images on acrylic on Belgian linen. Using the patchwork quilt skills I learned when I was a kid from my great-grandma "Nanny" Ethel Safrons Dismukes Smiley, I sewed a patchwork border using scraps of vintage fabric and contemporary Hawaiian print fabrics. Below is the full edited text (I just used a few excerpts for the artwork). I'll let that speak for itself in terms of the content of the piece but I was thinking about absence, longing and how voids can create form and propel us to actions that we might not have taken if everything was OK. This is the story of the unintentional gift of an absent namesake.
Saimin Says: A Sansei’s Fathers Day Testimony by Dr. George Kina
Transcribed by Laura Kina August 2011
This testimony was delivered on Father’s Day June 19, 2011 at my parent’s church in Silverdale, Washington U.S.A. My father, Dr. George Kina, is Sansei Uchinanchu (3rd generation of Okinawan descent). Both his paternal and maternal grandparents emigrated from Okinawa, Japan at the beginning of the 20th century to work in the sugar cane fields on the Big Island of Hawai’i. What follows is a recollection of my father’s imperfect memories of his own father - Kameichi Kina.
Thank you fathers out there who stand by your family, your wife, your kids, because your positive impact on your family is not just on your own family but also on our community. I know that because I was one of those that grew up in a small community where there were actually a lot of good examples, I could look around and see that I could be like that person, or that person – I could pick out what I liked and say, “That’s how I want to be!” While I didn’t have that good example in my own family, I had it in the community.
I want to tell you a story about my father but right off, I want to tell you that although my father started off with a lot of difficulties in his life, started off poorly as a youth and as a father, I just want to say right now – he ended well. On December 4, 1987 he went on to be with the Lord. That’s the beginning and end of the story but there’s a lot in between.
I have a routine at lunchtime. I take about 15-20 minutes for lunch and I always have my bowl of chicken soup and a peanut butter jam sandwich. It just occurred to me that there’s a big connection between eating chicken soup on a daily basis and my father.
I have very little memory about my father - he left the house when I was a sixth grader and when he was at home, he wasn’t home very much. I think as a kid, you don’t remember a lot of things so it may be that there are things that went on with my father that I have no recollection about. I could come up with very little things I can remember my father with and one was eating a bowl of soup at a restaurant. We had a bowl of saimin soup [a Hawai’ian plantation era soft wheat noodle soup served in hot dashi (fish broth) and topped with char sui (sweet pork), garnished with kamaboko (fish cake), choi sum (Chinese cabbage), egg, and green onions]. I remember that it was a memorable thing. It’s weird, isn’t it, that that’s what I would remember in my memory of my father? Maybe that’s why eating chicken soup, right now, is a comfort food for me.
What did my father teach me? He wasn’t a man of a lot of words. We did things together. I remember we worked in the sugar cane field but as far as talking, I can’t remember too much except one thing. He taught me to drive way before I was to even think about driving. He said, “Look to where you wanna go, not where you don’t wanna go.” You know, when you are on a narrow road, if you look to the side line, you look at that and not the car coming toward you….to this day, when I’m driving my car, I think of my dad - just flashes of memory about him. Those are the two highlights in my life with my dad.
My dad wasn’t home much and he left when I was in the sixth grade and we never heard from him again from that time - not a word, not a note, no phone calls, didn’t send us any financial support. Over the years, just the lack of the father being there, there were seeds of opportunities…seeds of negative thoughts, bitterness, disappointment, sense of failure, sense of missing out on an important ingredient in my life, even though there were a lot of good examples.
I could see myself building these negative things in my character and I can remember having conversations with the Lord, over time, complaining about these things (this was when I was still a young person). It’s like the Lord communicated a thought to me, as I was whining and complaining to him about things he says, “Whose your real father?” It was like a sudden insight and an obvious thing. Of course there was only one answer, I said, “You are” and the thought came to me, “So why are you slandering my name? Why are you disrespecting me?” and the next thought that came to me was, “Honor your father.” That’s the fifth commandment - the first five commandments had to do with honoring authority, God, worshiping God, and the fifth one is honoring your father and mother. Give them respect, “Honor your father because I am the Lord, your God. Not because you think he deserves it or not or if he is a good father or not. Honor your father because I am the Lord, your God.”
That insight came at an early age but at the speed of obedience, it took many years to accomplish the insight the Lord gives! I thought I would just ignore things - my father hadn’t been in my life for many years. When it came time for me to graduate from high school. I really felt God compelling me to call my father, to find his number and call him. So I give him a call and I was able to reach him and I said, “Dad, I’m graduating from high school. I’m getting a special honor. I want you to be there” and he says, “Yes, I’ll be there” but he never was there. I never heard from him again from then. He missed different highlights in my life – high school, college, medical school, didn’t hear from him for my marriage or any of our children. But the Lord didn’t leave me off the hook on that.
As one of the things as the son in an Oriental family, it was always understood that somehow, I am responsible for my parents, that ultimately when the need comes - I’m going to take care of them. So in a sense, it was a relief to me that I didn’t have contact with my father at this point - only 50% responsibility left towards my mother! Whenever I would go back to Hawai’i, I would feel the Lord telling me to call my dad. I would call him and visit him. My father wasn’t a man of a lot of words, as I said, so we did meet a few times and had a few greetings but he never said a lot. Maybe he was feeling guilty about failing us and not being what it was supposed to have been but it was pleasant, we just said a few things and parted. That’s how our meeting was. When our fourth child was born I felt the Lord said, “This is an opportunity now to honor your father.” What the Lord wanted me to do was name our son after my father - “Kameichi.”
The last time I saw my father, I visited him in Hawai’i, I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, that when I went into his home the picture of my son was in first place. All of us were behind… background. My son must have been 2-3 years old but I knew when I saw that, we had made a connection, that he had sensed that things were going to be OK and I felt things were going to be OK with us.
My father, I heard, spent the last days of his life knowing the Lord, reading the Bible, praying. He ended well even though things were rough for him, things weren’t that rough for the family. We were taken care of. The Lord has been good to myself, my three sisters, to my father’s grandchildren. His favor has been upon us. God has been good to them and to us. God has been good to my father.
My son just graduated from officer’s candidate school. He is getting started in his career as an Air Force pilot and I told him, “You carry the name of my father ‘Kameichi’ and I am proud of you for what you are, for what you are becoming. I know my father would have wanted to be like you if he had the opportunity and the support.” I thank the Lord that he has been good to my dad, even though he started the way he did and had some set backs, I thank the Lord for that.