Vandalism to Public Sculpture

On a recent visit to see the portrait sculpture of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole in Waianae, I discovered that the bottom fishhook that rested on IZ’s chest was missing, i.e. apparently stolen. Who would do such a thing? And who would evoke such negative mana against a man who gave so much of himself to the people of Hawaii? I discovered the missing fishhook when I lifted a string of leis that draped his chest in order to inspect the condition of the bronze. At first my eyes hit a blank stare, thinking that there was something unusual about how his chest looked. It took a few seconds to realize that the fishhook was gone.

Marlene Kamakawiwo'ole touching the bottom fishhook on the commemorative sculpture of IZ on the day of the dedication. The fishhook was stolen off of the sculpture last year.
Marlene Kamakawiwo’ole touching the bottom fishhook on the commemorative sculpture of IZ on the day of the dedication. The fishhook was stolen off of the sculpture last year.

Vandalism is the willful destruction of property… in this case, property that is maintained by the City and County of Honolulu on behalf of the people of Hawaii. It is in fact a crime to deface public property and also expensive to repair. It is unlikely the City and County of Honolulu will pay to have the fishhook recast in bronze and welded back onto IZ’s chest. The steps to do so are numerous and may be too costly for the City to justify. So, the sculpture of IZ will be missing an integral piece that was once part of the original sculpture… the beloved fishhook that he wore faithfully on his chest.

Vandalism to the IZ sculpture and to other sculpture that has been reported in the news is an aggressive act not only to this specific sculpture of IZ which honors the man and his music, but it is an unforgivable act against the people of Hawaii. Vandalism sends a message that the perpetrator doesn’t care about others, especially the sacredness of a man’s image or the hard work of an artist to bring aesthetic beauty to a community. Another sculpture that suffered vandalism and graffiti is the cement sculpture of a man sitting on a bench reading a newspaper located in downtown Honolulu. The piece had been tagged by vandals. Fortunately, someone on their own initiative painted over the graffiti bringing the sculpture back to life.

Many studies on why a person commits vandalism often conclude that the vandal is possibly angry, bored, seeking revenge or is acting out of a distorted sense of defiance. Researchers on this topic emphatically state that vandals possess a self hatred not only to others but of themselves as well.

There are positive steps that concerned citizens can take to reduce acts of vandalism in their community. The following is an abbreviated list of action guidelines issued by the National Crime Prevention Council.

  • Learn about the costs and the effects that vandalism has on a neighborhood by working with law enforcement, school officials and community leaders.
  • Teach what you learn about vandalism to others. Speak to people about these problems.
  • Start a cleanup crew at your school or in your neighborhood. Ask local businesses to donate supplies needed to clean up graffiti as soon as the vandalism is discovered.
  • Write articles in your school or community newspaper on the costs of vandalism and graffiti.
  • Look for ways to get known vandals involved in activities that are positive and non-destructive.
  • Start a vandalism hotline in cooperation with law enforcement and school officials in which people can report incidents of vandalism and gives tips in identifying vandals.
  • Work with faith organizations to adopt a street or a park with your school, youth, or community.
  • Get involved. Don’t be afraid to report vandalism when and where it happens.

Finally, as the sculptor, I plan to repair the commemorative sculpture of IZ by recasting the fishhook and welding it back onto IZ’s chest. It won’t happen tomorrow, but hopefully one day we can get the full image of IZ restored to his original glory. It’s important to me personally and to the community-at-large to preserve this public sculpture which honors the man whom all of Hawaii has come to respect and love.

Marlene Kamakawiwo'ole with the commemorative sculpture of IZ. The portrait sculpture is located at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center in Waianae, Oahu.
Marlene Kamakawiwo’ole with the commemorative sculpture of IZ. The portrait sculpture is located at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center in Waianae, Oahu.