A little Aloha Comes to Evanston
August 27, 2009
Photo courtesy of Jerry Goldner, nature photographer.
artist Johnnie "Keoni" Durant is spending his summer vacation
visiting friends and carving an elaborate tiki at Evanston's lakefront.
A lifelong resident of Kaua'i, Durant is well-known for his traditional
sculpture and jewelry, which can be found in private collections and
galleries, and on hotel properties and movie sets. This summer he is
drawing daily crowds as he carves the larger-than-life-size tiki, which
he plans on giving to the City of Evanston as a gift.
tiki is a large wood (or stone) carving that embodies the human figure.
In Polynesian mythology, it represents a deep connection to the
spiritual realm. Historically tikis reminded ancient Hawaiians of
their values, including respect for family, appreciation of nature and
belief in the power of knowledge. Today, tikis serve as symbols of
humanity and creating a better life among all peoples.
The Evanston tiki represents the god of sports and recreation and
symbolizes honor and sportsmanship. Durant has named the sculpture
“'Ohana,” which means family
(and community) in Hawaiian, and is a reminder that no one should be left behind or forgotten. To pay tribute to the residents of Evanston and the City's commitment to their health and well-being, Durant is incorporating the City's logo into his carving.
Durant's creation is being carved from white oak, the Illinois state tree, and will take approximately a month to complete. When finished, the tiki will stand approximately eight feet tall.
The public is invited to watch the tiki being created. The major carving is being done at Centennial Park, between Church and University Place. Once this work is completed, the tiki will be moved south, closer to the lagoon in Dawes Park for the finer carving and finishing touches. The best time to see Durant work is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Durant plans on presenting the finished tiki to Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and the City Council. The final indoor location for the completed sculpture has yet to be determined.
This is Durant's second visit to the mainland and Evanston. His first visit was last winter, when he experienced snow and extreme cold (11 below zero) for the first time. His sweetheart (kuipo), whom he met while carving a four-poster bed on a beach on Kauai, grew up in Evanston and invited him to back to Chicago for a summertime visit with the promise that he would love the trees, not to mention the unmatched culture and diversity of her home town. For more information about the Evanston tiki, call (312) 226-5100. For more information about Keoni Durant, visit www.kauaicarver.com.