20 for the Next 20: Ka‘iu Kimura, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
“I think that we are in a time when there is greater awareness of the importance of Hawaiian knowledge and Hawaiian community engagement in things. And I think there is great opportunity in helping to further advance that in a way that is beneficial for all of Hawai‘i,” says Ka‘iu Kimura.
At the core of her work as director of ‘Imiloa in Hilo is bringing Mauna Kea to the forefront through educational opportunities that couple the mountain’s culture and history with astronomy, she says.
When asked if she is leading conversations to break down age-old barriers and move forward, Kimura defers to ‘Imiloa’s impact as a whole. “I feel like we’re a hub, a place where conversations are free to happen and people come willing and ready to actively engage and share.”
Ann Botticelli, friend and mentor to Kimura and senior VP for corporate communications and public affairs at Hawaiian Airlines, says, “Kimura doesn’t talk about what she thinks. She listens and gathers and tries to understand all the different perspectives so she can put them together in a way that finds the
Kimura grew up in Waimea on Hawai‘i Island, where she remembers the Keck and the Canada France Hawaii telescopes as part of the community. She was asked to participate in planning for ‘Imiloa while a Hawaiian language graduate student at UH Hilo.
“I felt a sense of responsibility to help bring many stories together into building the center so our community could learn and engage and know about the significance of Mauna Kea from the various parts of our community.”
‘Imiloa has international partnerships with science centers, museums and research institutions that seek to bring indigenous worldviews and scientific research together, Kimura says. “We have a lot of experience and lessons to share (about) the value of engaging with indigenous communities and advancing indigenous knowledge.”
Kimura is an alumna of the Omidyar Fellows and Pacific Century Fellows. She also holds a leadership role at UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language, serves on the board of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawai‘i and of Community First, a nonprofit focused on health care reform. And she recently helped reestablish the Hui ‘Oihana Hawai‘i Island Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.
As for the future, Kimura says, “I’m hoping we can continue to push the envelope on Hawai‘i solutions for Hawai‘i challenges, and I think the language and culture is a big part of that.”