Margaret Shiba

Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Editor’s note: In all honesty, I had mixed feelings when contributing writer Margaret Shiba suggested doing a story on Ka‘iu Kimura. From what I knew about Ka‘iu, she was definitely a worthy subject for a story, and I knew Margaret would do a good job on the piece. My hesitancy was that Ka‘iu is Margaret’s boss at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. But so inspiring a leader has Ka‘iu been to Margaret, who was born a generation before Ka‘iu, and to others in the Hawai‘i Island community, that I OK’d her story proposal with this disclosure.

Over the past year, protests surrounding the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea have taken Hawai‘i by storm. Nowhere has the controversy been felt more keenly and yet, ironically, been less on display, than at our ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. This groundbreaking museum, which opened just 10 years ago, offers innovative programming and exhibits that interpret astronomy and Hawaiian culture as parallel journeys of human exploration guided by the light of the stars. At the helm of ‘Imiloa as it navigates through rough seas is our charismatic yonsei executive director, Ka‘iu Kimura, a leader uniquely qualified by birth and temperament for her role.

Translated, the word “’imiloa” means “the pursuit of new knowledge” and “one who explores.” Its use as a name for the center was inspired by the writings of Kepelino, a 19th century Native Hawaiian historian who declared that “Pursuing new knowledge brings bountiful rewards . . . The work of the explorer is never done!” As a core Hawaiian value, “’imiloa” is about venturing into the unknown, bringing back new knowledge and sharing discoveries with one’s people. This is the mission to which Ka‘iu has dedicated her life’s work.

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