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Hilo artist creates Polynesian football trophies

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The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame college and professional player of the year awards presented in January were designed by Hilo artist Tevita Kunato.

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The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame college and professional player of the year awards presented in January were designed by Hilo artist Tevita Kunato.

The awards are on permanent display at the PFHOF located at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. Kunato was born and raised in Papua New Guinea, and works out of his home shop in Hilo. He said his work is all about celebrating the rich art and cultures of the Pacific.

In his description of the College Football Player of the Year award, Kunato wrote:

“This trophy was designed to capture Polynesian pride. It symbolizes three essential elements of the Polynesian identity: talent, journey and strength.

“The makau, or fish hook, represents the skill of the fisherman who catches the most fish. It also embodies Ka makau kahii o Maui, the Polynesian folk hero Maui and the magic hook with which he pulled the islands from the depths of the sea.

“The pe‘a, or sail, represents the kupuna or tumbuna (ancestors) who braved the liquid continent and became revered voyagers who charted new paths and discovered new lands. The war club represents power, fearlessness in battle.

“The bearer of this trophy is the modern hero who, with his skill and strength of will, reached across the Pacific to pursue the dream of playing football.”

In his description of the Pro Football Player of the Year award, Kunato wrote:

“This trophy was designed to celebrate the rich history of Polynesian seafaring. The crab-claw sail was used so commonly throughout the Pacific that it has become a symbol, not only for Polynesian seafaring, but to Polynesian peoples.

“The award also brings attention to the ancestral knowledge of ocean winds, the currents and the stars. The frigate bird, or iwa, effortlessly glides with the winds. The inlaid shells under the sail represent a charted celestial path across a vast ocean.

“Lastly, ingenuity and expertise in Polynesian canoe building, design and strength is mirrored in the award’s base. Traditional coconut fiber lashings tie the base together with no need for modern adhesives capable of withstanding the mighty ocean swells.

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“The recipient of this award represents the best of Polynesian determination, strength and expertise through his excellence in the sport of football.”

To view more of Kunato’s work, visit oceaniacarving.com.