Kepola Dudoit Discovered Art in Prison + Honors Queen Liliuokalani with 5 Quilling Pieces in “A Petal of Inspiration”

Kepola Dudoit inspires others to overcome cultural dissonance, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, and prison with art.

Kepola Dudoit
The Crown of the Island
The Flag – Kepola Dudoit

I wanted to make sure that I created artwork that would honor the Queen and the YWCA. I began talking with friends and one mentioned to me, “well, Kepola, you know that the flag for our Hawaiian people is the crown of the Island.” This impacted me. I knew I needed to incorporate it into this display. I also wanted to include “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono” (“The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”) on the flag because it is such a significant motto for Hawaii’s people. I wrote the motto in yellow not only because it was her favorite color, but because it was the color of her reign.

The Ostrich Dress – Kepola Dudoit

I originally wanted to create the peacock dress that I had learned was the gown Queen Liliuokalani wore to Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubilee. However, as I was doing research, I just felt that intuition hit me. God tole me to just check again. I was re-learning so much about the Queen. Sure enough, when I checked it was not Queen Liliuokalani’s – it was actually Queen Kapiolani’s dress. I went back and continued to research. I wanted to find a gown that represented Queen Liliuokalani. I finally found her ostrich-lilac feathered dress. I created my own interpretation of her dress, which is believed to be the last commissioned gown the Queen had while being a sovereign ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

I was on my way to the YWCA Oahu’s Dress for Success sale to source clothes for the upcoming event that we will be doing with Art + Flea on April 16, 2022! I love the program’s mission of helping women achieve economic freedom and supporting their monthly thrift sales. As I walked through the lobby, I decided to stop and take a look at the quilling exhibit – “A Petal of Inspiration” – that caught my eye. I got to talking to one of the YWCA volunteers who started sharing the story of the artist, Kepola Dudoit. I was so inspired and felt that it was an amazing testament to the power of art, creativity, and expression.

Kepola Dudoit – The Artist

It started out with a petal. A single strip of colorful paper curled and twirled into an oblong shape. A single petal of flower repeated hundreds of times. This is how Kepola Dudoit learned the art of quilling during her time in prison. As a teenager, Dudoit became entangled with methamphetamines, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, and eventually prison.

While working on the education work line, she was introduced to quilling and rediscovered her love of art – a gift that had been clouded during a large portion of her life. Through her time at the YWCA Fernhurst furlough & reentry program, Dudoit continued pursuing her artistic gifts. Now Dudoit is the resident artist at YWCA Oahu, an experience that has been life-changing. Dudoit is fully embracing her gifts and hoping to inspire others to embrace and share their gifts as well.

Kepola Dudoit
Representing Righteousness
The Seal – Kepola Dudoit

I felt compelled to do the inner seal of the State of Hawaii. This is, after all, our crest – our seal that makes Hawaii, Hawaii. To me, the inner part of the seal looks like a shield, like a breastplate of righteousness and a shield that represents the eight main islands of Hawaii.

A Petal of Inspiration – The Exhibit

At first, Dudoit was reluctant to create any quilling related to Queen Liliuokalani. The Queen was too powerful, and Dudoit thought it was out of her league to create any artwork surrounding her legacy. Even though Dudoit is part-Hawaiian, she was born and raised in a church that did not teach her to embrace her Hawaiian culture. Sure, she knew who Queen Liliuokalani and King Kamehameha were, but she did not feel deeply connected to her roots.

After Dudoit created her art installation, she thought about her next project. She did research, she took a moment, and she realized it was time. Now was when she could start her next project on Queen Liliuokalani. As she did more research, she gained valuable knowledge about the Queen’s legacy. Dudoit discovered much of what she had been taught about the Queen was, in fact, incorrect. As Dudoit continued with her research, she was able to connect more with her heritage and honor the Queen’s powerful legacy that still lives on today.

Royalty and Loyalty
Queen’s Motto – Kepola Dudoit

I wanted to incorporate the Queen’s motto. She was the head of the Onipaa movement (meaning “immovable, steadfast, and firm”) whose motto was “Hawaii for the Hawaiians.” Liliuokalani fought against annexation of the islands by the United States.

I surrounded the motto with her favorite flower, the crown flower. The Queen’s garden was something very important to her, and her loyal supporters planted crown flowers and her other favorite flowers during her house arrest. However, I chose shades of purple not only due to the crown flower, but because purple is the color of royalty and gracefulness which the Queen embodied.

The Queen, a member of the YWCA during her lifetime, can be felt in Dudoit’s artwork and the love and energy that went into the creation of “A Petal of Inspiration.”

Attend a service in Olelo Hawaii at The Cathedral of St. Andrew in Downtown Honolulu~

Song of the Heart
Song of the Heart – Kepola Dudoit

This mele is incredibly important to me. It is one of the most famous and cherished pieces of her music. This song is very special to me because I sang it while growing up as a farewell song. I would sing it when my family and friends were leaving, knowing we would see each other again. I also wanted to include the flowers… not only because of how important her garden was to Queen Liliuokalani, but also because of their hidden significance. While the Queen was under house arrest, she was not able to get outside information. However, her loyal supporters would often bring her favorite flowers, which were allowed. They used this as a way to sneak information to the Queen by wrapping the flowers in newspaper so the Queen could be kept up to date on what was happening to her people.

This was absolutely such a beautiful, unique, and meaningful installation. It was my first time really experiencing quilling, and I loved the message shared by the artist and the testimony that is her life.

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