Interview with Namiko Takahashi

The Naupaka Kahakai, meaning Naupaka by the sea, is emblematic of the legend of Naupaka, where two devoted lovers are torn apart, never to be reunited again. While the Naupaka Kahakai represents one of the lovers, the other is represented by the Naupaka flower in the mountains. The Naupaka Kahakai can be found along the coastlines and also on the cover of Aaron Lee’s Coastlands

This artwork, already now heavy with meaning, was created by the multi-disciplinary artist Namiko Takahashi. We speak to her about the process and the ways in which she wove the themes of the book into the artwork.

How do the themes or the content in Coastlands present themselves in your artwork?

The first thing that we wanted to convey were the ideas of separation and longing explored in Aaron’s work, especially the poem “Folk Tale 1” inspired by the Hawaiian legend of the Naupaka flower. The associated ideas of nostalgia and displacement were also represented in the nautucal themes, palette colour and line work.

What did you want to communicate in your artwork?

I wanted the artwork to resonate and amplify the title “Coastlands”, with all its aspects of journeying, exploration and discovery.

Describe the book cover design in one word!


What was the process like when creating the artwork?

The immediacy of the linocut print process lent itself to spontaneity of expression. I did several versions with different colour palettes and talked them over with Aaron.

How does your relationship with Aaron affect your work?

The themes in his poetry inspire me because first and foremost, we share a life. Also, they are universal ideas that I also grapple with as an artist. I love to hear him read his poems, they do interact in a special way with my own modes of expression. We find it extremely fulfilling to understand and support each other’s work.

Coastlands is available for purchase at BooksActually, Booktique, Books Kinokuniya, MPH, and here.