Painting the Pacific Northwest’s peaks with Ken Jarvela

By Casey Barton
Flapjack staff

Comfortably situated in Korbel, California lives Ken Jarvela, a Humboldt-born resident of 59 years and a respected local artist. After studying and cultivating a sensitivity to natural rhythms, Jarvela has painted hundreds of landscapes which capture the atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest and preserve their limitless majesty.

One might meet this funny and likely paint-dribbled artist at his favorite lookout spot on a nice day, or on rainy days hunkered-down in his trailer. Upon entering his home, it would be hard to miss the flanks of paintings that have accumulated or been set aside for future touch-ups. Walls are covered in sketches, favorite paintings or intricate topographic maps. One piece stands out from the colorful array and holds a special place in his heart. It’s a large chalk pastel of a redwood grove which was beautifully drawn by his grandmother.

“This skill has been dormant in the family for generations,” Jarvela said. “I’m proud to share my work with others.”

Along with an inherited artistic spark, Jarvela’s youthful explorations of the woods in Sunny Brae and hiking trips in the Trinity alps with his cousin gave him the opportunity to observe and appreciate natural landscapes. When he reached the age of 19, Jarvela finally started practicing with his own style and subjects. It was in a Beginning Drawing class at College of the Redwoods, with professor Jerry Smith, where he was actually encouraged to focus and start drawing what he really felt drawn to, mountains.

Jarvela began taking deeper explorations into to the Trinities with close friends and over time spent longer and longer periods in the mountains, documenting what he saw and living wildly. Michael Harris, also a local artist and succeeding in photography, would study composition with him and was one of the brave friends to join him in the wild. When reminiscing on their trips into the Trinities, Harris shared clear memories of the great take-away shots that they would capture and their mild cases of frostbite.

“Our backpacking trips were some of the most memorable moments for me,” he said. “We would go snow camping too and boy it would get cold!”

Harris would also help hike supplies out to different spots where Jarvela would camp until there was little left to eat. Even though it was a rough way to live at first, these periods of seclusion granted Jarvela another sense, an attunement with the landscape that never came as naturally in the city.

“When you go out there you remember you’re apart of something greater,” Jarvela said. “And the days start to seem just as quiet as the night.”

Jarvela’s deep love for the mountains never failed him and really only grew to include other beautiful landscapes, such as Mount Shasta, Crater Lake and Yosemite, to name a few.

“Sure I’ve traveled around,” he said. “But one really only needs to walk ten feet from where they’re standing to see a whole different world.”

Jarvela’s work oftentimes reveals that quality as if one is being transported to the very place he represents in a painting. Some days he even feels like he’s painting kaleidoscope images, with the colors and shadow his subject changing as the day ripens. Another photographer and close friend of Jarvela’s, Michaela Murphy, shared her experience in their friendship and her appreciation for his paintings.

“Ken is known for his atmosphere; there’s a life that his work takes on. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the progression of his paintings– from the first sketching or layer of paint to when he’s completed the work and eventually lets it go,” Murphy said. “Sometimes it can be sad to see them sold but the art really has a life and purpose of it’s own.”

Jarvela’s work has been featured all over Humboldt county. Some of his paintings currently live at the Erickson Fine Art Gallery in Healdsburg, Strawberry Rock Gallery in Trinidad, and a lasting mural above the storefront for Pacific Paradise in Arcata. With the support and awe that he has already, Jarvela plans to continue painting.

“Sure you can paint for yourself, but without others having the chance to recognize the work,” Jarvela says, “there would be no point to it all.”


Oakland store sells products from Ghana with a bonus of positive energy

By Denne Dickson
Flapjack staff

Imagine walking down the street in downtown Oakland and suddenly the smell of incense and oils began flooding the air surrounding you. Fifty feet before a shop’s entrance, you’re drawn in by the smell of  frankincense and myrrh. Upon entrance you’re hit by an abundance of loving and welcoming energy. Soon enough you’re greeted by an elder, a woman by the name of Ellen Nzinga. Welcome, you’ve made it to Sankofa.

The term Sankofa is derived from a small tribe in Ghana and translates: “It is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” The shop Sankofa meets that translation in a variety of different shapes and forms. Sankofa markets several natural handmade products straight from Ghana.

The owner of the shop sees great value in the understanding of one’s history and future which motivated her to give her shop such a powerful name – Sankofa. Through this term she has been motivated to practiced unifying the community through her shop. However, hardships have taken toll on Ellen Nzinga’s goals.

“Success is about somebody who has it all, someone who sees himself from the bottom to the edge,” said 57-year-old Nzinga.

Nzinga goes by Mama Ellen to many. Nzinga’s shop is not only known for the product being sold from it, rather it is known for its welcoming energy and Nzinga’s shared wisdom.

Before cultivating such space in Oakland, Nzinga began running her own business in Ghana in 1984. She sold much of what she sells now. The difference between then and now is Nzinga’s definition of success. Then, she considered herself successful for simply making a living, now her standards of the term has been lifted.   

Nzinga’s work in Ghana ended only a few years late.

“Business in Ghana was very competitive,” she said.

The competition of business, on top of having a husband and child drove Nzinga to the United States, where Nzinga picked up work as a nanny. She had done such work in order to stabilize herself and prepare herself to further business to come.

“After a few months I realized I would never work under anyone again,” she said. “It was clear what I needed to do.”

Nzinga said she opened the shop with the intentions to bring something new to the community, to share the handmade natural products that people wore in Ghana.

“Upon coming here I was under the impression that people were in need, in need of natural chemical not the chemical that is internally damaging to the human body,” Nzinga said.

While natural products sound ideal, Nzinga has expressed much difficulties getting her products to sale. Other than people just not being interested in her product she has recently concluded that her store location might be bigger than people’s lack of interest.

“The homeless surrounding this street make business bad,” said Nzinga.

She protests that the drunk and homeless run off the possible customers.

“I don’t blame them for their circumstance because I know sometimes life is too heavy, but yes they run off possible customers with their heavy begging and drunk talk,” Nzinga said. “They crowd the front of the store and make it look like I run a bad business.”

With the lack of funds to relocate, Nzinga has to promote her business by other means. Most recently Nzinga has decided to promote her business in a variety of events that happen around the community. Despite the connections being made Nzinga worries about the money being generated.

Nzinga has been running her own business for the last 33 years and it hasn’t been until recent years where she has begun falling short of her own definition of successful. For Nzinga her level of success is measured by the revenue generated from her business.

“Success is about surplus, not someone who doesn’t know what they are doing,” Nzinga said “For instance, I’ve been in this business for 30+ years and now I’m always crying about money. Yes, I have a surplus of merchandise but what good is the merchandise if it does not sale? No one can be successful if they are not moving forward.”

Although Nzinga has a difficult time seeing some of her own successes she is truly admired by the community surrounding her.

“Mama has paved the way for to many of us,” said 21-year-old Adolfo King. “How many black businesses do you see surrounding this neighborhood? None, there is no way that we are all gonna let this shop fall off the map.” 

King has been visiting Sankofa since the time of its opening back in 2014. He loves the place and Nzinga who is said to have been a great support for him. King is truly motivated to help Nzinga keep her shop, he has been providing Nzinga with free labor whenever she needs.

King isn’t the only customer determined to see Sankofa thrive. 36-year-old Larry Bey comes around the shop to donate and purchase when ever he can.

“Ellen taught me about business and furthermore motivated me to start my own,” said Bey “I’m now getting started with shea butter products, so of course I look out for her when I can.”

Other customers admire the positive energy Nzinga carries and has cultivated within the shop. They have also measured her success upon other means.

“Ellen is successful because of the relationships she has developed, whether young or old rich or poor she’s met people, showed love and it is only a matter of time before she starts receiving” King said.

“Mama is successful because despite the hardships, everyday I come in here she is smiling and so full of energy,” said Leilani Lewis who is a current customer.

“Ellen is successful because of her mentality, she is strong in the mind and that will carry her far out,” said Donte Banks who is also a customer.

With such influence on the community it won’t be long before Nzinga reach her standards of success or even sees her successes through the lenses of her customers. 

Dentist by day job: A local author’s first book launch (add source)

Author Richard Benoit speaks to a crowd of friends, family, and literary lovers during the launch of his first book on Feb. 8.




























By Grace Becker
Flapjack staff

Is your dentist an author? If you see Richard Benoit, DDS for all your dental needs, then yes.

On the rainy evening of Wednesday, Feb. 8, local Arcata denizens gathered in the library fishbowl for the book launch gathering of Benoit’s book “A Pinch of Powder.” The room was filled mostly with older folks, contrasted against the many college students just outside the glass room studying for their classes.

Benoit started off humorously, as he knew most of the room personally.

“Those of you who know me know I’m not a writer by day job,” he said. He was never interested in writing, studying science all through college, and remembers being intimidated by writing. It wasn’t until after he graduated from dental school and spent a year in Guatemala that the writing began. “I should write about that,” he remembered thinking about his experiences.

His first time writing didn’t exactly go smoothly. After writing 2000 pages (of which he admitted being very critical of), he put the book away and hasn’t looked at it since. He admits being naïve as he was writing “A Pinch of Powder,” and didn’t realize how much went into getting published – writing, reading, editing, marketing, and so on.

“It’s all a part of the process,” Benoit said, mentioning that he is very grateful for his editor, though he added that the two of them “did not agree” at times during the process.

Since that first attempt, however, Benoit has written several books, both for adults and children. He has nine books finished, and when someone asked him how he changed from being uninterested and intimidated by writing to having written nine books, Benoit credited being less inhibited – by being out of school full time, he has more time and more inspiration for writing.

The book is for both children and adults. It is the first book in his Pulvology Series – Pulvology being a word made up by Benoit to mean “the study of powders.” It was born from stories he told his children when they were younger, and now finds itself a full length novel. Benoit read a bit from his book during the launch. The audience got to meet the young protagonists, Jim and Carries Hughes, who find themselves in the company of the eclectic Mrs. Simonson after they move to Ohio from Oregon.

Benoit mentioned wanting to have strong female characters in his book. He’s heard about girls being uninterested or discouraged from getting into science, and wanted to show that science could be fun. He also made mention of the current political administration being somewhat anti-science, adding another aspect of social awareness to the overall writing.

This being his first book launch, Benoit was welcomed warmly by those in the room, and everyone cared deeply for the author’s effort and intent. The aspect of a small town coming together to celebrate a friend and neighbors accomplishments was present in the library fishbowl. Benoit mentioned naming the main characters of his book after close friends, one of which who was sitting in the back of the room near me. The man called Jim smiled and laughed as Benoit gestured to him, the honor of having been a namesake evident on his face.

“It’s fantastic,” Jim said after the fact. “I’m overjoyed.”

While the book had just been released, not many people were able to comment on its contents. Those present, however, had faith in Benoit’s writing ability and by the end of the event all copies the author had for sale were bought, signed, and in the eager hands of readers ready to devour them.

Benoit has the next two books in his Pulvology Series finished, so if you’re interested in giving “A Pinch of Powder” a read, you won’t have long to wait for the next leg of the story.

Click here to see more info about “A Pinch of Powder.”

HSU hosts Superbowl party

By Izzi Beer
Flapjack staff

The Superbowl is an event in memory emphasized with the taste of salty pretzels, yelling (often times punctuated by splashes of liquid), and general confusion. This year was no exception. The game itself was riddled with its share of stressful plays and nail-biting calls, the New England Patriots ultimately emerging victorious. Across the country there were myriad viewing parties, and here at Humboldt State University, many students congregated at the bottom of the college’s Jolly Green Giant Commons to watch the game. It seemed that, while the game itself attracted many viewers, there were also alternative reasons to attend the party.    

Twenty-year-old HSU sophomore, Kristen Tarsala mentioned that food provided and the halftime show drew crowds as well.

“I think a lot of people came to get the food that is being served here for free. I live off campus, and drove over with a few friends just to get dinner and watch,” she said. “Also the Half-Time show this year is Lady Gaga. She’s great. My roommate only came to see her.”

This was a sentiment echoed by many who attended. In fact, most of the students who were watching mentioned that they were pretty impartial when it came to the individual teams. Ines Morale, 19, a freshman child development major referenced the fact that she would usually watch the game with her family.

“Since being here at school, there are few things that I can do with my family,” she said. “I kinda feel like being here is like watching it with them. Like I’m texting my mom about the score and stuff.”

When asked about her devotion to any individual teams, she laughed and said that she instead watches for the commercials.

“This year especially, the commercials are pretty politically charged and it makes me feel better when big corporations add their narrative,” she said.

As she spoke, the commercial for 84 Lumber came on and when it was finished she pointed out just how poignant these brief commercials were. “Like the immigration ban was just disapproved by that one judge and now I feel like everyone is showing solidarity with them,” Morales said. “I’m Latina so seeing this ad about Mexican families is really inspiring.”

Soon the halftime show began to a start and Lady Gaga’s performance entranced all who watched.

HSU Freshman Rush Wirtz – who’d just entered as she began her routine – noted the lack of obvious politicism.

“Last year Beyonce performed and was like blatantly paying homage to Malcolm X and criticizing police brutality,” Wirtz said. “And this year Lady Gaga is like singing about LGBT rights and love. Actually, I kinda like that. Like we are getting a brief break from all the scary stuff in the world and just watching some lady flip around in the air.”

Soon, the game drew to a close, and everyone began to file out of the building.

“That was certainly different than watching it at home with my family, but I didn’t mind it,” Morales said. “I guess I just have to adapt.”

Clothing swap enhances wardrobes

By Alexis Parra
Flapjack staff

This past Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was one of Humboldt State University’s Clothing Swaps. The clothing swap happens four times a years, twice every semester, usually at the beginning and end of every semester. This time around it was located in the Karshner Lounge during the afternoon. The point of this clothing swap is to trade in clothes you don’t want and you get the chance you look around and take stuff that you do want. Anything from accessories to clothes can be found at a clothing swap.

 Jennie Hernandez, 19, from Fillmore, California, enjoys going the clothing swaps.

“Clothing swaps are fun,” she says.  You get to meet new people and the chance to snag some free clothes, not to mention it is good for the environment.”

At Hernandez’s first clothing swap she scored three pairs of leggings, a cardigan, and a long-sleeve shirt. She hopes to continue going to clothing swaps as long as she is here at Humboldt State.

“I was going to the bookstore and I saw a bunch of people by the Kate Buchanan Room and went to go ask what was going on. Next thing you know I made a dollar donation to go look at clothes that were pretty much free,” shares 18-year-old Jayrlin Molina.

Jayrlin Molina is a forestry major and freshman at Humboldt State who scored some workout shoes at the clothing swap. Even though she stumbled into her first clothing swap on accident she would definitely go to another one. Her second time around she hopes to be informed early enough to where she can search through her closet and actually swap some clothes she no longer cares for.

Gladis Nerri-Frausto, 19, Central-Valley native and Humboldt State freshman has never been to a clothing swap so far, but would definitely like to attend.

“I always heard about the clothing swaps, but never had time. I would definitely like to clean out my closet while also filling it with some things that would be knew to me,” she says.