Honolulu Museum of Art Café manager Josh Hancock is always on his feet and rarely standing still, greeting guests and jumping in to help bus tables or take a drink order during the lunch rush. Though he started his position in July, Josh has a long history with the museum. Back in 2001, he was still a teenager when he worked as a busboy at what was then called the Pavilion Café. He also worked at the former Contemporary Museum Café and spent many years as a projectionist at the Doris Duke Theatre before leaving in 2010 to start his own businesses.

“I opened up Downbeat Diner in 2010 and Proof Public House in 2014,” he says. “After working in Chinatown day in and day out and running those establishments I was finally kind of able to get them running on their own, with the help of my partner, and found a way to come back to the museum, back to a setting that I was really comfortable with and really enjoyed. So now I work here and then I go down to Chinatown and check in on my own businesses and make sure things are going well.”

In Chinatown, he is better known as Josh86, longtime frontman of punk trio The 86 List (moshing since 1999) and ska/punk ensemble Black Square (skanking since 2002). “The whole time I worked at the museum I have always been in a band too,” says Josh. “This place has always been very friendly to people who are into weird, countercultural stuff. Being a punk rocker or having tattoos and working here was never an issue. Self-expression and personality are celebrated within these walls so I always felt very welcome here.”

So what piece in the museum’s collection moves this punk rocker the most? Indian god Shiva’s main form of transportation—Nandi the bull.

“I like the Nandi Head because, first of all, I walk by it almost every single day,” explains Josh. “At the end of my work day I see this gigantic bull head, carved out of a single block of wood, and it just has a certain power. It kind of gives me a little bit of extra juice as I’m finishing my day. I like that it’s got some subtle colors painted on it and the intricate carving that was probably made with small hand tools and I think about the people that put the time and energy into creating it. I also think about where it once sat, centuries ago, in front of a temple in India. How many people walked past it and maybe touched it or looked at it or were also affected by it and then went along in their day as well, maybe having a little bit of an energetic exchange with this just massive powerful, carved piece of artwork?”

Nandi’s Head
India, Kerala, late 18th century
Gift of The Christensen Fund, 2001