Pacific Arts is the journal of the Pacific Arts Association, an international organization devoted to the study of the arts of Oceania (Aboriginal Australia and the Pacific Islands). The journal was established in 1990 and is currently issued as an annual volume in a new series that began in 2006. In 2020, the journal moved to eScholarship, the open access scholarly publishing program of the University of California/California Digital Library.
Volume 22, Issue 1, 2022
Pacific Arts N.S. Vol. 22 No. 1 (2022)
Pacific Island Worlds: Oceanic Dis/Positions
Pacific Arts N.S. Vol. 22 No. 1 (2022)
Pacific Island Worlds: Oceanic Dis/Positions
It is with heavy hearts that the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) acknowledges Adrienne L. Kaeppler’s passing on March 5, 2022, at the age of 86. Adrienne was a stalwart supporter of the PAA and one of its founding members. In 2003, she was awarded the association’s highest accolade, the Manu Daula (Frigate Bird) Award, which is given to an individual for outstanding achievement in, and dedication to, the arts of the Pacific.
This special issue of Pacific Arts centers on the theme “Pacific Island Worlds: Transpacific Dis/Positions,” which was the topic of a two-day series of events held at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) in May 2018. This generative meeting explored Oceanic rootedness and mobility, grounded and expansive kinships, worlding, place-making, and colonial histories and their legacies. In important ways, it grew out of the “Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge” symposium, also hosted by UCSC, nearly two decades earlier. “Pacific Island Worlds” was dedicated to the memory of Teresia Teaiwa, a graduate of UCSC’s History of Consciousness doctoral program (2001) who had passed away in 2017 and whose academic, activist, and creative work profoundly inspired Pacific studies scholars and artists around the world. Our introduction is a story of two conferences—moments, pauses, in an ongoing flow of historical, political, and intellectual activity.
This essay seeks to broaden and diversify discussions of the transpacific itineraries that weave throughout Oceania by exploring artistic transactions among Māori, Pasifika, and Chinese peoples that are routed through Aotearoa New Zealand. I consider how New Zealand-based performance artists move beyond US-dominated categories and priorities to expose new relationships between islands and continents, and between Indigenous, diasporic, and immigrant identities and ways of being. I chart this terrain by examining three collaborative, intercultural performance works. The multilayered, photographic series Red Coats + Indians: The Games We Play (2019–20), created by New Zealand-born Sāmoan artist Greg Semu in collaboration with Indigenous Formosans in Taiwan, uses the iconic figure of Captain James Cook as an allegory for Chinese colonialism. Renee Liang’s opera The Bone Feeder (2017) and choreographer Moss Te Ururangi Patterson’s choral and dance ensemble piece Awa: When Two Rivers Collide (2017) trace geographical and spiritual connections between Aotearoa and China, but do so in ways that weave Aotearoa into wider Pacific circuits and crossings. The essay demonstrates the important role of the visual and performing arts in imagining mobilities, dispositioning, place-making, and identities in Oceania, and in highlighting alternative Pacific and Asian linkages and modes of knowledge production.
ʻAe Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence, a three-day pop-up exhibition and performance venue organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi (July 7–9, 2017), was a daring social and intercultural experiment. Bringing attention to Hawaiʻi as a locus of trans-oceanic circulation, contact, and contestation, the project convened more than fifty visual artists, filmmakers, poets, scholars, performers, musicians, artisans, and traditional cultural practitioners from across the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas. Beyond fostering person-toperson contact via curated spaces of conviviality involving the participants and visitors to the site, the Culture Lab was foundationally oriented to the transactional production and sharing of knowledge across diverse communities by encouraging collaboration and dialogue in informal, face-to-face exchanges. In considering what type of model for contemporary, socially-engaged curatorial and museum practice the Culture Lab was advancing by devising transitory, culture-centered spaces and identifying themes around which people could find common cause, this piece draws on my firsthand observation of ʻAe Kai and the insights of visual artists I interviewed about their projects. It equally raises the question of what kinds of communities and support systems are being called forth through public convenings in which artists/cultural producers and spectators alike can claim places as active, expressive stakeholders in coextensive civic discourse.
This is a discussion between artist and scholar Katerina Teaiwa and artist and curator Yuki Kihara about their collaborative exhibition Project Banaba—the origins of the project, the exhibition process, and its various iterations in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and beyond between 2017 and 2022. First staged at Carriageworks in Sydney, the multimedia exhibition follows the historical path of colonial-era phosphate mining on Banaba; phosphate fertiliser production, distribution, and consumption; displaced Banaban life; and associated archives, images, stories, and media. Project Banaba engages the communities where it is shown—both in a historic and a contemporary sense—while reflecting on imperialism, the movement of Indigenous lands and peoples through mining, the complicated Indigenous kinships resulting from this history, and the cultural revitalization and resilience of Banabans and other Pacific Islanders.
This is an interview between the artist Jewel Block and art historian Stacy L. Kamehiro, based on their conversations between May 2018 and November 2021. Block and Kamehiro discuss some of the conceptual frameworks and creative strategies developed by the artist to chronicle the experiences of her family relocating to Southern California from American Sāmoa, and address issues of memory, place-making, and Sāmoan-American identity processes.
“I Sengsong San Diego”: The Chamoru Cultural Festival and the Formation of a Chamoru Diasporic Community
This essay addresses contemporary migrations of Chamorus tied to the history of US military presence in Micronesia and the ways Indigenous culture and identity are negotiated through the Chamorro Cultural Festival (CCF) that has been held annually in San Diego, California since 2009. The analysis explores how diasporic Chamorus maintain close transpacific connections to the Mariana Islands while also establishing Chamoru communities abroad through the CCF. The festival simultaneously enacts Chamoru identities based in both mobility and rootedness and is a large-scale expression of how Chamorus create and express collective identities.
This essay examines the recent group exhibition SALTWATER / Interconnectivity co-curated by Katharine Losi Atafu-Mayo and Giles Peterson at the Tautai Gallery in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand (October 16, 2020 to January 30, 2021), including its public exhibition talks, forums, and performance activations. The exhibition was intended to embody the Moana worldview and explore questions of justice, equity, identity, and ecology through newly commissioned work by six multimedia Indigenous artists and designers from the Moana-Solwara (Oceania region): Katharine Losi Atafu-Mayo, Peter Elavera, Te Ara Minhinnick, Shawnee Tekki, Telly Tuita, and Gutiŋjarra Yunipiŋju.
The ASB Polyfest: The Construction of Transnational Pacific Cultural Spaces in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand
This paper connects historical and ethnographic research to examine the construction of physical and ideological transnational Pacific spaces within Aotearoa New Zealand’s longest-running Pacific festival and performance competition, the ASB Polyfest (The Auckland Secondary Schools Māori and Pacific Cultural Festival). The festival was established through the self-determination of Māori and Pacific peoples and progressive educational leadership in Auckland during the 1960s and 1970s. First staged in 1976 as a competition amongst four community-driven “Polynesian clubs,” it has grown over four decades to involve approximately 10,000 individual participants and is a significant site for cultural transmission for transnational Pacific youth in Auckland. The origins of the festival are contextualised in the establishment of Māori and transnational Pacific communities in the southern suburbs of Auckland, who migrated for work opportunities during a period of rapid industrial growth and defied socioeconomic and geographic marginalisation. A present-day ethnography of rehearsals for the ASB Polyfest music and dance competition examines the processes by which physical spaces are transformed into socio-temporal spaces where transnational Pacific communities of practice are developed and a place of Pacific belonging is established. Ethnographic vignettes describing key milestones in festival preparation, and the culmination of these preparations at the festival competition, highlight the progression of the formation of communities of practice. These examples support the central argument that ASB Polyfest school cultural groups are uniquely constructed sociotemporal Pacific spaces where transnational Pacific identities are explored and represented.
Research Notes & Creative Work
This Research Note proceeds from an interview with Native Hawaiian artist Kaili Chun following her presentation at the “Pacific Island Worlds: Oceanic Dis/Positions” symposium, which took place at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2018. The conversation delved into Chun’s interactive installation practice through a discussion of three of her artworks: Veritas (2012), Hulali i ka lā (2017), and Uwē ka lani, ola ka honua (2021). Each of these pieces celebrates the importance and value of water in Native ecologies, and proposes to view Native practices of stewardship of the land as pathways towards a more sustainable future. Ultimately, the conversation draws a portrait of the Native artist as a storyteller and steward of the land.
Joe Balaz—a writer, visual artist, and active advocate for Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (HIP)—discusses the reception of his HIP poems and art by literary magazines around the world, and presents examples of his published creative works.
About the Art: Carl Franklin Kaʻailāʻau Pao’s Kiʻi Kupuna: ʻO ʻAilāʻau (Ancestral Images: Forest Eater) Series
In his most recent series of paintings titled Kiʻi Kupuna: ʻO ʻAilāʻau (Ancestral Images: Forest Eater), Native Hawaiian artist Carl Franklin Kaʻailāʻau Pao reflects on the volcano deity ʻAilāʻau, who predates the more popularly known goddess Pele in the Hawaiian pantheon. Over the last century, ʻAilāʻau’s story has largely fallen into obscurity. However, the eruption of Kīlauea volcano on Hawaiʻi Island in 2018 heralded what many kūpuna (elders) and cultural practitioners believed to be the triumphant return of the god. Pao’s new, experimental works seek to place ʻAilāʻau at the center of collective remembering once again—not as a challenger to the Pele narratives, but as a coequal in a more diverse, deeper, and complex storyline.
This Research Note investigates The Collection (2016), a residential development in Kakaʻako, Hawaiʻi. The Collection is part of Our Kakaʻako, an urban revitalization project on land administered by the Kamehameha Schools. The Collection initiates critical conversations about the fraught relationship between contemporary architecture, urban planning, and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) futures in the settler state of Hawai‘i. While The Collection is steeped in neoliberal and capitalist discourses, its monumental presence also enables an interrogation of future possibilities of Honolulu as a just urban society—a place where everyone has a home and Kānaka Maoli can maintain and restore relationships informed by the ʻāina (land; that which feeds).
Watsonville is in the Heart: Documenting Histories of Transpacific Filipino Migration in the Pajaro Valley
Watsonville is in the Heart (WIITH) is a community-driven, public history initiative to preserve and uplift stories of Filipino transpacific migration and labor in the greater Pajaro Valley—an agricultural region located on central California’s coast. The WIITH team is creating a novel archive documenting the resilience of Filipinos who navigated the intersections of colonialism, migrant labor, and racism during the early twentieth century. The archive includes Filipino experiences documented through oral histories, photographs, personal records, and material culture objects. Significantly, WIITH’s archive reveals transpacific connections between the Philippines, Hawai‘i, and the Pajaro Valley that have yet to be examined by scholars. The initiative’s value sits at the intersections of art, oral histories, and histories of Filipino migration. It will culminate in an exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Watsonville is in the Heart: Philippine Migrant Labor in the Pajaro Valley, that will bring the WIITH archive and the Bay Area artist community together. This essay provides an overview of WIITH’s archival development, methodology, and historiographical intervention thus far.
Erasing the Empire through the Restitution of Military Land: Military Bases and Processes of Re-appropriation in French Polynesia
Following several years of tense worldwide protests against nuclear testing, the French campaign in the Pacific ended in 1996. In the years that followed, military facilities in French Polynesia, at least those most strictly connected with nuclear activities, shut down. After the exploitation and detonation of the atolls Moruroa and Fangataufa (and symbolically of the Polynesian minds and bodies), land is finally being given back to French Polynesians. Military bases are closing and military personnel are returning to France. Some of these building complexes are now property of local towns. The questions raised in this article revolve around the symbolic power of military bases’ dismantlement, which can be interpreted as the erasure of the French empire. What do such erasures of military facilities represent? Is it just an economic reorganization of the national defense or does it represent the will to materially erase colonial and nuclear history? Moreover, I argue that these ongoing processes can be analyzed as a form of re-appropriation of land by the Polynesian communities and a new form of sovereignty.
This is a review of Hohou Te Rongo: A Strategy towards Health & Wellbeing, an exhibition curated by Margaret Aull and Cerys Davidson that was on view at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts Gallery, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand, July 2–September 3, 2021. It will be on view at the Waikato Museum from July 2022 through January 2023 and will be called Toi is Rongoā.
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