Page 12 - MIdWeek - Feb 24, 2021
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        The master copper artist known as Sooriya not only inspires many with his larger-than-life sculptures of whales and dolphins in Nānākuli, but also with his peaceful messages of caring for the earth and serving others with aloha.
        OStory by Ginger Keller | Photos by Lawrence Tabudlo
n a sunny Westside a nearby temple. From being named one of the morning in Nānāku- “I was very fascinated by Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi li, the sculptured the sound and rhythm. Ev- by Honpa Hongwanji Mis-
ey, wealth or any of
that. Whatever I have,
I will share it and give
it away,” he contin-
ues. “I don’t want anything. I don’t take anything when I go
— only my soul and
the good things I have
done here. One day,
my journey will end. Why should I get attached to un- necessary things? I create — that’s all I do. I work on the farm. I help people who need help. It’s a different path that I’ve taken.”
      bodies of two humpback erything is rhythm,” says sion of Hawaiʻi to becoming
 whales reflect an iridescent radiance. They represent the largest copper whale structure in the world, and are the handiwork of artist Muthukumaru Sooriyakumar (known by most as Sooriya), a 71-year-old Sri Lankan man whose values of unity, harmony and compassion go wherever his bare feet take him.
Sooriya. “I knew that’s the way I wanted to do artwork.” It comes as no surprise, then, that the bulk of his art- work in the decades since is made from copper, an ele- ment that produces a distinct chime and vibration when
a Hero of Forgiveness from Hawaiʻi Forgiveness Project, Sooriya, who lives humbly in a 10-by-10-foot Waiʻanae cottage, overflows with con- tinual gratitude, a virtue he credits to his parents and grandparents.
The largest copper humpback whale sculptures in the world can be seen swimming along the side of The Agnes Kalaniho‘okahā Community Learning Center at The Nānākuli Village Center.
Sooriya’s lifelong dedica-
“They did so much for the people,” he says. “I learned how to share, how to give, how to feed; this really took me all around the world. It’s already in my lineage — the gratitude, serving, helping and coming together.
those who visit. Found be- neath the Waiʻanae moun- tain range, the compound is a hub where people can learn about traditional visual arts and farming, while becom- ing one with nature and each other.
trees — all of the trees grow in the village where I was born,” he says. “Also, the mountains, the ocean, the sacredness and the people around here are beautiful.
  AsayoungboyinaCey- lon village, Sooriya devel- oped adoration for art after wandering upon workers who were shaping stone for
tion to the craft, along with his devotion to helping com- munities, has garnered him accolades and recognitions from nearly every corner of the world — most predom- inantly, here in the islands.
“I’m not attached to mon-
Through his nonprof- it Mouna Arts & Cultural Village, Sooriya shares a lifetime of lessons with all
“I felt connected to this part of the island because the first thing I saw were the
“I worked in many places around the world and I helped the people here, there, every- where. But I wanted to give

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