Posted on: February 11, 2011

Curtain of Whales Returns to Maui With Artist/Creator Peggy Oki

Curtain of Whales To Be Featured at:
• Keiki ECO-Day on Friday, February 18
• Whale Day on Saturday, February 19

MA'ALAEA, HI -- When artist, conservationist and pioneering skateboarder Peggy Oki wanted to find a way to use her talents to raise awareness about whaling, she found herself drawn to origami. After learning to fold an origami whale, she went on to work with thousands of schoolchildren, adults, friends and strangers to create 30,000 of the folded whales, which became the basis for a dramatic multi-colored artistic display that Oki named, the "Curtain of Whales."

The "Curtain of Whales" made its debut in May, 2007 as a 17 foot by 50 foot installation, and has been wowing viewers ever since. It features long strings of origami whales arranged with an artist's eye for color, in neat orderly rows so you can wander through. It is more of a maze than a curtain, and more of a work of art than anything else. Walking through the Curtain of Whales is awe-inspiring. Surrounded by the little paper whales, you can feel the wishes and good intentions behind that went into folding each one, and the tragic loss of marine wildlife that has resulted from whale hunting and killing, despite the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling. Look closely and you can read simple messages written on individual whales by the people who folded them. Some are in the handwriting of children. "Please stop the whaling," reads one. "Help save the whales," urges another.

"It's a powerful visual statement and memorial for the lives of whales killed since 1986, a point in time when whales were supposed to have been protected from hunting," comments Oki.

Pacific Whale Foundation first brought the Curtain of Whales to Maui in 2008, renting a large tent to display the piece at its annual Whale Day Celebration. It was an instant hit, and the Curtain of Whales has returned each year to Whale Day ever since, along with its creator Peggy Oki. It has grown over the years to 36,000 -- the number of whales killed to date by whalers since the IWC ban went into effect.

"Thousands of children and adults of all ages, schools, organizations, individuals, from all nations contributed origami whales as a call to action to halt further slaughter," notes Oki. "Whale Day 2011 will mark the fourth year that the Curtain of Whales will hang at Whale Day.  Everyone is invited to experience the power of this symbol of human connection to whales."

You'll find the Curtain of Whales at Pacific Whale Foundation's Whale Day Celebration on Saturday, February 19, from 9 am to 6 pm at Kalama Park, by the big whale statue in Kihei. It's tucked at the end of the oceanside "Eco-Alley" where environmental groups and government agencies display information about protecting Maui's environment. The Curtain of Whales offers a  quiet and reflective space for those who wish to take a break from the music, food and fun at Whale Day. Peggy Oki is usually stationed at the door of the exhibit, and is happy to talk story about her experiences with the curtain. Visitors are encouraged to add an origami whale to the curtain; supplies will be provided.

Schoolchildren will have the opportunity to tour through the Curtain of Whales with their classes on Friday, February 18, during Keiki E.C.O.-Day, a free outdoor conference focusing on outdoor environmental education for elementary-aged children. It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Kalama Park in Kïhei. More than 250 students from Wailuku Elementary, Montessori Hale o Keiki, and Kamali‘i Elementary School will attend this free event, with bus transportation provided at no charge by Kokua Foundation and Pacific Whale Foundation's “No Child Left Indoors” scholarship fund. Keiki will learn about vermicomposting (composting with worms), growing healthy snacks, navigating using a GPS system and protecting Maui’s forest and ocean environments through workshops offered by Maui Invasive Species Committee, East Maui Watershed, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Community Workday, Kïhei Charter School, Haleakalä National Park and Hawai‘i Nature Center, all of whom are Keiki E.C.O. Day partners. Pacific Whale Foundation's research, conservation and education staff will also be offering educational programs.

The children will also  be treated to a free concert by the Banana Slug String Band, an eco-oriented children’s musical group that uses costumes and catchy lyrics to inspire youngsters to take part in protecting the planet.

The goal is to lay the foundation for the development of an appreciation for the natural world, which will encourage our future leaders to cherish, care for and protect Hawai‘i’s natural beauty.

Visiting schoolchildren are invited to participate in Keiki ECO-Day with their families. Pre-registration is required. For information, contact Pacific Whale Foundation's Education Director, Merrill Kaufman, at merrillkaufman@pacificwhale.org or call (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.
All of the events are part of the Maui Whale Festival, a series of events from late November through mid-May, hosted by Pacific Whale Foundation. To learn more, visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org.

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