Peggy Oki – A Profile Of Passion
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Peggy Oki, a legend of “Dogtown,” has no desire to rest on her laurels. Since her days as the only female member of the groundbreaking Zephyr team – a group that revolutionized skateboarding by extending their surf regime to the asphalt – she has had plenty of ambitious projects to keep her busy. A classic Californian, Peggy has skated for more than 25 years, travels the world to surf and loves rock climbing in treasured places, such as our nation’s national parks.
Peggy’s deep love of nature and aerobic activity fuel her passion for her current projects. On a personal level, she expresses her appreciation for aquatic life through her artwork. With a B.F.A. in Painting from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Peggy has presented her art in more than 50 group exhibitions and 20 one-woman exhibitions. But her passion for conservation of wildlife is expressed beyond her paintings. Through the Origami Whales Project (OWP), Peggy has melded art and activism, generating awareness for her cause on a global level. Inspired by the Japanese legend of 1,000 origami cranes, she created and collected 1,400 origami whales. “Rather than the traditional 1,000, we chose the number 1,400, as it represented the total number of whales that would be killed in the year 2004. This was the sum of the ‘quotas’ set by Iceland, Japan and Norway,”Peggy stated. She assembled her origami whales into the “curtain” it is today. Sadly, this curtain now contains a staggering 36,000 paper whales.
“For the first time since the original Save the Whales movement, the general public was learning that the slaughter of dolphins and whales continues by the thousands annually,” she further explains. Peggy has hosted events globally, using the OWP and the documentary The Cove to inform the public about the harm we humans are inflicting on cetaceans. In February 2011, the updated “Curtain of 36,000 Origami Whales” was exhibited for the fourth year in a row at the annual Whale Day event on Maui. Peggy herself hosts special tours of the curtain to school groups at the second annual Keiki ECO Day (Educating Children Outdoors), in concurrence with Whale Day.
Peggy also encourages collaboration and affords educational opportunities to the public through the Whales and Dolphins Ambassador Program. She created this program to “provide an overview of the natural history of cetaceans,” inspire “cetacean appreciation” (as she calls it), and shed light on the impact of humanity in today’s aquatic environments. “As an expert activist for cetaceans and OWP founder and director, I present impacts and offer the class opportunities to engage in basic art projects and activities that are part of the solution. It’s a fun way to educate, engage and empower the kids,” she says. Peggy collaborates with students of all ages, creating art or assembling a letter campaign to save her beloved sea creatures.
As the Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer said, “Until we extend the circle of compassion to all living beings, we shall not find peace.” Peggy cites this quote as inspiration and seems to follow this notion through her daily actions. When asked how she feels about being an inspiration herself, Peggy says she considers the best part of fame to be the opportunity she has to educate and influence everyone to take action. “As human beings, we each can find and follow our passions. The mind is the most powerful aspect of your being. What you focus on will manifest. I hope that everybody will contribute their own special skills to support a cause that matters to them, whether it is bringing a skate park to your town, volunteering with an environmental organization…or saving the Whales!”
Words By Susan Mipanyarack
Photo By Matt Dayka Photography And Sipperphotography.Com