Feature Story

It took a master one year to finish his winning sculpture

By Lori Lyn Lirio

Nock N. Klewei’s ‘Turtle and Octopus.’ Photo © Lori Lyn Lirio

NICK N. Klewei’s ‘Turtle and Octopus’ wood carving won the Best of Show in the Bridge Capital’s 8th annual Art Competition at the Flame Tree Arts Festival.

This is the first time Kwelei won the Best of Show but it is his fourth win in the competition.

In 2017, he won first place in the Wood Carving and Others category with his entry entitled ‘Family of 5 and the Roaster.’ It took him a year to finish his winning entry this year.

“My inspiration to this ‘Turtle and Octopus’ is friendship. It is like a fairy tale story. The octopus is riding away to escape from the voracious species. She accidentally landed on the back of the turtle. She asked the help the turtle’s help. The turtle took her and fled. Everywhere they go, the octopus managed to get food for them – the shells and whatever underneath the corals and eat them. That was the beginning of their friendship,” Klewei said, adding it was the story he imagined while working on his artwork.

Klewei started sketching when he was 12. He was copying the drawings in his books when one of his teachers saw his potential.

“You are an artist,” Klewei quoted one of his teachers.

They started asking him to do the charts for the class.

“I love arts – painting drawing, then carvings. They are my hobbies.”

He said he has been joining arts competitions in the Flame Tree Arts Festival since 1997.

“Competition is a way for me to improve skills. The more I join the contest, the more I feel I am improving my talent,” he said.

Bridge Capital Chief Operating Officer Tucker Baldwin said they received 155 entries this year, more than 50 percent increase from the 77 artworks they received in 2017. He said this time was the biggest entries they had so far.

“It means more people are getting involved in the arts and that is what we want – to encourage people to show creativity and their talent and get out there,” Baldwin said.

The Bridge Capital opened eight categories this year: 11 and Under, Students Category; Woodwork and Mixed Media, Photography, Painting/Open Category, Community Choice award, Governor’s Choice award, and Best of Show.

For 11 and Under, Sora Baidya took four days to complete her ‘Black and White Turtle’. She said her drawing was inspired by her love for the islands and turtles. The medium she used was pencil.

Ruth Park, a student from Saipan Southern High School, was a first place winner in Student Category.

Her entry entitled ‘Sea the Beauty’ depicted beauty of the island. For her, the turtles find peace and safe refuge on the seas and a safe place to live and lay eggs.

“Turtles become the islands’ treasures and beauty,” she said, adding that it took her five days to complete her artwork.

Sewing and recycling enthusiast Debbie Winkfield won first place in Woodwork and Mixed Media.

‘Silent Cry’ is a quilt made of different kinds and colorful fabrics. Her piece was inspired by the beauty of the island.

“I made this art as an inspiration for people to keep protecting our nature,” Winkfield said.

Mayla Capilitan’s ‘Refalu Bwesh’ won in the Photography category.

Capilitan prepared for at least a month for the beautiful shot of the baby, her subject.

“She always wanted to take a picture of babies and show culture at the same time. Her opportunity came when her friend had a baby and she was able to take a photo of an adorably baby as well as show the island culture,” Baldwin said.

Ireneo David’s ‘Turtle (Under the Sea)’ won the Painting/Open Category. His inspiration for his artwork is to save the sea creatures, helping them survive and taking care of the environment.

David used acrylic paint and glass to produce the piece and it took him about a month to finish.

Jesus Sulla, Jr. got the Community Choice award. His art was inspired by the festival. His piece consisted of glass and color spray which produced the artwork that depicted Saipan’s culture, festivities and nature.

Governor’s Choice award went to Gregorio Bacnis, Jr. His work showed the island’s culture and the coming together of families. It took him a month to finish his artwork.

Bridge Capital’s 8th annual Art Competition results and prizes:

11 and Under:

1st – Sora Baidya ‘Black and White Turtle’ – US$750

2nd – Kim Ju Eun ‘Sweet Spring’ US$500

Student Category:

1st – Ruth Park ‘Sea the Beauty’ – US$1,50

2nd – Tricia Zeruiya D. Salcedo ‘Dancing Waves’ – US$1,000

Woodwork and Mixed Media:

1st – Debbie Winkfield ‘Silent Cry’ US$1,500

2nd – Beatrix Susan Doyle ‘Underwater Magic’ – US$1,000


1st – Myla Capilitan ‘Refalu Bwesch’ – US$1,500

2nd – Hervin E. Jacinto ‘View from Inos Peace Park’ – US$1,000

Painting/Open Category

1st – Ireneo Q. David ‘Turtle (Under Sea)’ – US$1,500

2nd – Nhorleen Bitco ‘The Marianas’ – US$1,000

Community Choice:

Jesus P. Sulla, Jr. ‘Flame Tree at Night’ – $500

Governor’s Choice:

Gregorio Bacnis Jr. – ‘Sakaw Roots’ – $1,000

Best of Show:

Nick N. Klewei ‘Turtle and Octopus’ – $2,500

Lori Lyn Lirio
Lori Lyn C. Lirio is a veteran newshen having worked for the People's Journal Tonight for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines University. She currently writes for the Marianas Variety, Saipan's number one community paper. .

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