Hawaii Part Two: O’ahu Boogaloo

Burning Man, Hawaiian style…the Ka Palina flag

“O’ahu” is Hawaiian for “The Gathering Place.” In keeping with its name, I found O’ahu to be the most diverse Hawaiian island I visited and also the most cosmopolitan. The pristine beaches and lush hills are sharply contrasted by the skyscrapers, highways, and factories of Honolulu and its surrounding areas. Amidst this duality, one finds business moguls, adventurous tourists, surfers and wayward souls who fled “The Mainland” for O’ahu and decided to stay. Such was the case with our two O’ahu Burning Man Regional Contacts, Geoff Hearl and Andi Cuniberti as well as with many other Burning Man participants who have created a home for themselves on this island in the middle of the Pacific.

In a dedicated effort to bring the Burners on O’ahu together and to keep the Burning Man spirit alive year-round, Andi and Geoff offer a warm welcome to those wanting to get involved with the Hawaii Burning Man community.

Upon our arrival in Honolulu, Andie Grace and I were greeted, leis in hand, by Andi, Geoff and Mike, a Hawaiian Burner who’d come to Black Rock City for the first time in 2010. Over a home-cooked dinner at Andi’s house on the North Shore, we learned a great deal about Burner life on O’ahu and the ways in which Andi and Geoff are encouraging year-round participation through a range of projects, Meet n Greets and other community gatherings.

Our gracious hosts,Geoff (left) and Andi (right), in line at Keneke’s BBQ

One way in which Burners can participate in Hawaii is through the first ever CORE Project (Circle of Regional Effigies). This year, Hawaii and over twenty-five Burning Man Regional groups from across the world will be building effigies on playa in a circle around the Man. These effigies will be burned ceremoniously on playa to celebrate the year-round communities that have grown out of the Burning Man event. Many Regional groups have chosen to create an effigy that symbolizes their city or state (for example, the Las Vegas Burners are building a showgirl) while other groups have chosen to recreate an effigy from one of their official Burning Man Regional events. The Hawaii Burners’ contribution to the circle will be “The Phoenix,” an effigy they built for Rebirth, an annual camping event that takes place on the Big Island. The design for “The Phoenix” was initially conceived by artist Mike Muang who travels each year from Boston to Hawaii to build the wooden sculpture that is burned, like the Man, on Saturday evening each year during Rebirth. Recreating “The Phoenix” on playa will take a lot of man power as well as some fundraising. Currently, Andi and Geoff are looking for artists and other creative spirits to come forward and share their ideas and skills.There are currently myriad ways to get involved with the CORE project as well as Burnal Equinox, an upcoming community event in Honolulu.Proceeds from Burnal Equinox event in Honolulu will directly fund the purchase of supplies and materials for ‘The Phoenix” effigy build. For more information, visit the Hawaii page in the Regionals section of the Burning Man website.

“The Phoenix” effigy burn at Rebirth, 2008 (Photo by Seth from Honolulu)

The CORE project is not only a way for the Hawaii group to come together through hands-on participation but also a way to let other Hawaiian Burners know that there are ways to stay connected to Burning Man year-round on O’ahu.  “Burners from all over Hawaii go to Burning Man but they don’t always know that we have a local community here on the islands,” Andi explains. “Maybe having ‘The Phoenix’ out out on playa this year will raise awareness.”

Another way in which Andi and Geoff have been encouraging year-round participation has been through hosting Meet n Greet events on O’ahu. During our visit, Andie Grace and I had the pleasure of attending a Meet n Greet at Bar 35 in Honolulu’s Chinatown. With a wide grin, Geoff told us about how the O’ahu Meet n Greets have, over the years, been a great way to bring local Burners together and to welcome visitors into the local Burner scene. “I get a call or email from a Burner several times a month. Sometimes they are just passing through but other times, they are new to the island and looking to connect,” Geoff beamed. “If there’s a beach burn or a Meet n Greet happening, I invite them. Otherwise, I make it a priority to meet up and show them around town.”

The twenty or so Burners that made it out for the Meet n Greet at Bar 35 ran the gamut from the seasoned Burner to the excited Newbie. As our luck would have it, Playarazzi Andy, a professional photographer who registers with us each year at Media Mecca, happened to be visiting O’ahu at the same time and made his way to Bar 35. Through chatting with other Burners at the Meet n Greet, Andy was able to get contact information for a local fire troupe whom he’d hoped to connect with and photograph during his stay on O’ahu. It seemed that other new friendships were being created and we ended the evening with a group photo (I will post photo asap for your enjoyment). Another Meet n Greet will likely be held next month and, as always, Geoff and Andi welcome any and all interested to attend.

Even though there are so many ways to get involved with the local Burner scene, Andi and Geoff explained that it can sometimes be difficult to get people together. On O’ahu, even the most ambitious and well-meaning Burners are easily distracted by the big waves and warm climate. But, Andi and Geoff are not easily discouraged. “We’ll continue to host gatherings and get the word out about what’s happening here,” Andi says, “and we’re always hoping more people will come out of the woodwork and make new things happen.”

After the crowd thinned out, we made our way back to the North Shore. Andi and Geoff seemed happy that the Meet n Greet had been so successful and also that they’d had the opportunity to “show off” all that O’ahu has to offer. Though Andie Grace and I were sad to leave O’ahu, we were looking forward to connecting with more Burners on our visit to the Big Island.

About the author: Megs Rutigliano

Megs Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano is Burning Man's Associate Director of the Regional Network. She oversees Burning Man's annual Global Leadership Conference and European Leadership Summit. Meghan explores the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.