Featured Image: Kenyatta Kelechi, Hana Pa’akai o Hanapepe, a Labor of Love, 2022

Exhibition Programming:

Participating Artists: l frank, Kenyatta Kelechi, Yuki Kihara, Ian Kualiʻi, Marques Hanalei Marzan, Meleanna Meyer, Brandon Ng, Saumolia Puapuaga, Nainoa Rosehill, Mikiʻala Souza, Michel Tuffery.

Mai Ka Pouli: (Re)presentations of Moananuiākea explores identity and representation of Kanaka Ōiwi and people of the Pacific through contemporary artworks activating stories of people, places and cultures which have been historically and contemporaneously misrepresented and erased. By re-centering voices and perspectives, artists reclaim the narrative.

Referencing an emergence from darkness, Mai Ka Pouli features re-presentations of the past through contemporary artworks by 11 artists whose ancestors bind them to the vast Pacific, Moananuiākea. In collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which provided access to over 9,000 digitized historic images of the Pacific Island Photography Collection, stories held within these photographic treasures are brought to light from the darkness of invisibility and marginalization.

This project is rooted in the rich culture of the Pacific and as a way to honor and give life to the stories of our land, ancestors and those of our descendants. Layered with foreign influences of colonialism, history in the Pacific continues to shape contemporary life, notably those of Kanaka 'Ōiwi and Pacific Islanders whose lands, cultural practices and values have been manipulated and exploited. Artworks reclaiming and reframing people, landscapes and events of Hawai'i and the Pacific encourages viewers to consider alternative perspectives and ways of understanding and connecting with the past, and also consider the empowering and healing possibilities of affirming one’s own identity.

This exhibition and related programming offers multiple access points to narratives and perspectives on Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Indigenous identity and the sharing of diverse voices, experiences and stories. Conversations will emerge surrounding the following questions: Who has, historically and contemporaneously, been given authority to document and narrate the past? Whose stories have been told, by whom, and for what purpose? Whose stories are missing? Why does representation matter (in the media, in museum collections, in the workforce, etc.) and how does this affect our understanding of who we are? 

The history of Hawai'i and Pacific Island nations are evidenced in robust collections of material culture held within museums within and beyond their borders.  The project aims to address and respond to the above questions through engagement with historic and contemporary material, art making, and discussion-based exchange. 

The panel discussion on April 1st, will focus on issues surrounding identity and representation of Indigenous people of the Pacific as it relates to museum collections and will also be of interest to the community of museum, library and archive professionals and administrators who have kuleana with the care, interpretation and accessibility of archival material and treasures held within museum collections. 

This exhibition was curated by Mina Elison. A printed catalog will also accompany this exhibition.

Special mahalo to cultural advisor, Halena Kapuni-Reynolds, Joey Heinen, Digital Collections Manager, and Nancy Thomas, Senior Deputy Director at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Krista Johnson and Alapaʻi Kaulia of Ke Kula O ‘Ehunuikaimalino. 

This exhibition is made possible through a partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and funding from the Laila Twigg-Smith Art Fund and Robert C. & Helen F. Nichols Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Biennium Grant, County of Hawaiʻi Contingency Funds from Dr. Holeka Goro Inaba, and Rebecca Villegas.

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