Monday, March 19, 2012

Breadfruit for Isabella

oil on stretched liinen

A special family I met while my daughter was in Polynesian dance commissioned me to paint something to honor a legend they had learned about last year. Their Polynesian dance group competed in a National Competition featuring the Tahitian legend of a Chief from Rai'atea.

According to the legend, Chief Rauta'ata and his wife had nothing to feed his four children but the red soil beneath their feet because of the famine that had swept their island. The family went to search for food but could only find some ferns in a cave. Rauta'ata despaired because he could no longer watch his family suffer. He told to wife to sleep in the cave and the next morning he would be gone but would be able to deliver them from all starvation.

The next morning, the wife woke under the dappled shade of a great tree that had grown overnight in front of the cave. The tree was laden heavy with ripe breadfruit that the family gratefully ate to satiate their hunger. Legend has it Rauta'ata transformed himself into the breadfruit...the trunk representing his body, the leaves and branches his arms and the breadfruit his head.

This family was so moved by the legend that they wanted a painting to honor the breadfruit. I suggested they use their daughter as a model instead of having the breadfruit in the piece. The daughter grabbed a Tupperware bowl sat after wrapping a pareo over her top and jeans and sat for a photo. Then also gave me a photo of her in a headdress from a recent performance. So this painting was a result of melding together photos of breadfruit, headdress, her pose and my imagination for the woven basket.