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A small blip in the weather couldn’t stop the Ho‘oulu Hawai‘i: The King Kalakaua Era opening reception on Sept. 15 from being a cultural experience as moving as the milestone exhibition itself. On view until Jan. 27, Ho‘oulu showcases the creation and dissemination of a national identity through the art, design and technology that commenced under the monarch’s leadership.

“The exhibition reception brought together several cultural organizations to share art, hula, a story exploring Hawai?i?s art history with our community,” Healoha Johnston, Interim Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator, Arts of Hawai‘i, Oceania, Africa and the Americas and curator of the exhibition, said of the event. “The tenor of the day was in keeping with the spirit of the exhibition content: vibrant and inspired. Mahalo to everyone who came to celebrate Ho?oulu Hawai?i: The King Kalakaua Era opening with us.”

Open to the public, the museum opened at the normal time with guests making their way to Luce Pavilion for a protocol by the halau Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima featuring hula dancers and pahu drummers.

Guests watched the protocol in Luce Pavilion.

Guests watched the protocol in Luce Pavilion

Performers from Pua Ali'i 'Ilima

Performers from Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima

Then director Sean O’Harrow took the stage to welcome guests and introduce Johnston.

Director Sean O'Harrow makes his opening remarks

Director Sean O’Harrow makes his opening remarks

Afterward, it was Johnston’s turn on the mic. She shared how when she was first hired at the museum, she expressed how an exhibition like this was what she dreamed of doing. While a lover of contemporary art, that love was inspired by King Kalakaua and what occurred under his reign.

Curator Healoha Johnston introduces the exhibition

Curator Healoha Johnston introduces the exhibition

Johnston and O’Harrow then untied the maile lei looped around the door handle for the Henry R. Luce Gallery—and the exhibition was open.


Guests flooded the yellow-walled exhibition, marveling at the artwork, textiles, photographs and more—many of which haven’t been displayed since their entrance into museum archives and repositories years ago.

Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima performers took the stage at Central Courtyard for more entertainment. Musicians Ku Souza, Kings Kalohelani and Kekoa Woodward provided the music. The Café’s food stations opened with ono grub created by executive chef Robert Paik.


Keiki enjoy creating their own royal order on our iPad station

Keiki enjoy creating their own royal order on our iPad station

Paik's edible creations included ahi limu poke and crushed taro

Paik’s edible creations included ahi limu poke and crushed taro


From left to right: Michael Horikawa (HoMA Trustee and exhibition donor), Healoha Johnston, Melanie Ide (President & Chief Executive Officer, Bishop Museum), Wayne Pitluck (Bishop Museum Trustee and exhibition donor

From left to right: Michael Horikawa (HoMA Trustee and exhibition donor), Healoha Johnston, Melanie Ide (President & Chief Executive Officer, Bishop Museum), Wayne Pitluck (Bishop Museum Trustee and exhibition donor)


This exhibition is made possible by the Ohuokalani Charitable Foundation, Judy Pyle and Wayne Pitluck, Allison Holt Gendreau and Keith Gendreau, Laura and Donald Goo, Linda and Michael Horikawa, the Dolores Furtado Martin Foundation, and Jean E. Rolles.

13 hours ago |
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Pablo Picasso is credited for saying that “every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” While we’re not 100 percent sure that the famous artist ever uttered those words, that idea is the premise behind the recently completed installation Create and Destroy over at the library in The World Reflected up at Spalding House.

Starting in late August, local artists Ava Fedorov and Janet Tran began dismantling and repainting the library and manipulating the books in all sorts of ways before returning them to the library space in new places (and mediums.) The final product can be seen until The World Reflected ends on Oct. 28.

The two artists bask in their reimagined library space.

The two artists bask in their reimagined library space.

What is your background?

Janet Tran: It’s a mix of a few things that I tend to draw upon. Initially, I studied architecture and received a degree in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on interior design. However, I always found myself drawn to art and right after, received a degree in fine arts, focusing on fiber arts. Though in my current practice, I concentrate on conceptual ideas before consideration of art medium(s). Working in education as well, previously with pre-k for five years and now as a teaching artist for the museum’s educational outreach department, has been an enjoyable and engaging learning experience that puts me in the role of both teacher and student.

Ava Federov:  My background is in visual art and writing. While I was in graduate school for fine art in New York City, I supported myself as a writer. Because of the combination of verbal and visual expression in my background, the Create and Destroy project’s involvement with books as a medium really fascinated and inspired me.

How did you two get involved with Create and Destroy?

JT: Earlier this year, [public programs manager] Ryan Higa approached me about a project to essentially change up the entire library space in collaboration with a couple other artists. Immediately drawn to the idea, I agreed to take part, intrigued by reimaging an alternative arrangement yet maintaining its original function as a leisurely reading space. As wonderful as the library space started as, the opportunity to change it opens the space to many possibilities Federov and I were eager to explore.

AF: Higa invited me to be involved with an installation at the Spalding House in which books that were going to be discarded from the Museum’s library were reimagined as the fodder for an art installation. Over the past year, Higa and I had been having conversations about the idea of destruction being a creative mechanism, and creativity employing an element of the destructive. I think both of us are fascinated by this interplay, intellectually and expressively. When Higa approached me with the Create and Destroy premise, our past conversations came to mind, and I was thrilled to get to experiment with these ideas and push some boundaries. The destruction of books, something I hold as almost sacred, is also an interesting (and uncomfortable) area to explore. Even knowing that these books were being discarded, it definitely took some willpower to glue them together, knowing that it meant they would never be read again.

What was the inspiration behind your installation and the process for executing it?

JT: Lately, furniture and industrial design alongside creative reuse are two areas that inform my personal goals in understanding how to incorporate utility back into salvaged materials. When we found out the Robert Allerton Library was planning to discard or donate boxes of withdrawn books, they became the perfect art materials to guide Federov and me in how we could embody the cyclical relationship of creation and destruction.

For one of the pieces made, I was drawn to stacks of Christie’s and Sotheby’s art auction catalogs, several years’ worth and in perfect condition yet intended for discard. Despite the wonderful art images and sturdy quality, they are impractical and largely useless for anyone to want or keep. But these same qualities were highlighted in their transformation into a mobile book bench as holes were drilled, support rods inserted, and nuts and screws helped turn into them into seating for visitors. As for the room’s floor tiles, they are composed of the aged, brittle pages of books that were falling apart. Through papermaking processes, they were pulped and formed back into modular units appropriate in laying down for a contrasting, textual wall or floor surface.

AF: I am inspired by the idea of books holding vast worlds within their pages and the notion that they’re becoming extinct in our modern culture. I took inspiration from a line of poetry by John O’Donohue, “The silence of another world waits,” and built the words into an intricate stacking of the books. The books themselves form the letters, which in turn form the phrase. The “silence” for me is a reference to the act of reading, which is a silent escape, and also the silencing of the books, as they become more and more obsolete. To take it even further, the act of creating this installation, and thereby destroying the books is also a type of silencing. The process of stacking the books was time-consuming and tedious but also became almost obsessive. I spent hours sifting through piles of books, trying to find one that fit precisely in the place I needed it. It was like designing a new puzzle out of old pieces. I had no idea how many books it would take and had to make multiple runs to the basement of the Museum on Beretania, to get more and more books. I estimate there are over 1,000 books in the stack, which probably weighs over 3,000 lbs.

What do you want audiences to take away from seeing your installation?

JT: While enjoying the space, perhaps with a book in hand and sitting on a cushion, to consider what that book and library mean to them in the context of their own life—and also to imagine what more they can become beyond just the words and images we see.

AF: The elaborate book stacking at first is compelling but abstract. However, as the viewer looks at the enormous stack of books (about 25 feet long and over 5 feet high), the letters gradually reveal themselves, coalescing into the words and then the phrase. I like the idea of rewarding the careful observer, of slowly illuminated messages. I also tucked “secret messages” into the stacked books, here and there, in the form of poems. Most of the poems are written by poets who I know as friends, or who are friends of friends, and I am very honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with such great writers. Viewers will also find the work of several celebrated historical poets as well.

Watch a timelapse video of the entire project below:

16 hours ago |
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By the mid-19th century, photography was replacing early printmaking techniques as the primary form of portraiture in the Hawaiian Kingdom and elsewhere in the world. Photographers were among the many itinerant artists arriving in Hawai‘i, and as illustrations gave way to photographs, classical forms of art became associated with the legitimacy of historic power, while photography was the medium of the future.  This is in part because of the technical innovations and chemical processes associated with early photographic image-making, which situated it firmly in the age of industrial and scientific expansion. In the French  journal Photographie rationnelle, A. Belloc states that  photography “demands  good judgment, a great  spirit of observation, and a considerable amount of scientific knowledge from those who wholeheartedly want to practice  it.” To be associated with photography was to be associated with science, something King  Kalakaua picked up on and leveraged during his reign.

The daguerreotype, a photographic process invented by Louis Daguerre in Paris in 1929, was the first form of photography practiced in Hawai‘i. In 1845, an engineer named Theophilus Metcalf offered Hawai‘i residents the opportunity to have their portraits taken, but struggled with the technical process and equipment associated with daguerreotypy, making his experiments in photography a short-lived endeavor. In 1847, the process was reintroduced by a visitor from France named Senor Le Bleu, who sold photographic portraits taken of Honolulu residents during his brief stay.

Walery Portrait of Princess Liliu?okalani and Queen Kapi?olani, London, 1887 Albumen print, board, ink and adhesive Bishop Museum Archives images courtesy of Bishop Museum Archives

Portrait of Princess Liliu?okalani and Queen Kapi?olani, London, 1887
Albumen print, board, ink and adhesive
Bishop Museum Archives
images courtesy of Bishop Museum Archives

Daguerreotypes were circulating across the islands by 1853 through the work of Hugo Stangenwald and Stephen  Goodfellow, two photographers from California passing through Hawai‘i on their way to Australia. When the smallpox epidemic broke out in  April of that year, Goodfellow went on to Australia while Stangenwald stayed and practiced photography until 1858. The 1860s witnessed an increase in available photographic printing processes, a broader distribution of images, and a larger number of photographers offering their services in Hawai‘i.

Photography scholar, Lynn Davis, suggests the field of photography grew to be very diverse in keeping with the demographic shifts in the Hawaiian  Kingdom. Several photographers came from the United States during the Gold Rush when Americans were immigrating westward, some of them stayed in the islands and became Hawaiian nationals, while others continued on to other parts of the Pacific and Asia. Many photographers came as immigrants from Portugal, Japan, and China, and found photography a lucrative industry for those who could secure steady patronage.

Original photograph attributed to J.J. Williams King Kalakaua of Hawaii, ca. 1880 Lantern Slide Honolulu Museum of Art

Original photograph attributed to J.J. Williams
King Kalakaua of Hawaii, ca. 1880
Lantern Slide
Honolulu Museum of Art

King Kalakaua was an avid patron of royal family photographs, which he then shared with diplomats and nobility from other countries. He strategically visited photography studios when he traveled. While on his 1881 world tour, Kalakaua was hailed by the European press as ‘the best educated, most elegantly mannered ruler in the world.’ Utilizing photography and engaging the press created hype around his visits and celebrity around Hawai‘i. It also enabled his image to be reproduced and widely circulated. As a monarch intent on maintaining Hawai‘i’s independence, this advanced his initiative to present Hawai‘i as a capable and cutting-edge Kingdom on the world stage.

View some of these photographs in the recently opened exhibition Ho‘oulu Hawai‘i: The King Kalakaua Era.

2 days ago |
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There are two weeks left to Give Aloha to HoMA while you’re out picking up groceries. Foodland Hawai‘i’s annual matching gifts program is a great way to double the impact of your donation to the museum. Each year Foodland and the Western Union Foundation partner to match customer donations for Hawai‘i’s nonprofit organizations.

Here’s how to give: Have your Maika‘i Card handy when you check out and let the cashier know that you’d like to donate to the Honolulu Museum of Art, or mention our organization code 77066.  

Contributions of any amount, large or small, help to fund programs that spark imagination and fuel creativity for learners of all ages. Mahalo! 

5 days ago |
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The Honolulu Museum of Art hosted Ta-Nehisi Coates in Conversation as part of the Honolulu African-American Film Festival 2018 program in celebration of Black August. Sponsored by The Popolo Project and moderated by the Founder and Director of The Popolo Project Akiemi Glenn, the two-part event aimed to explore the liabilities and boons for better understanding the intersection between the experience of Blackness in the Pacific and the experience of Blackness in the continental United States. The conversations aimed to address the question, “Can we better understand American racial politics and future if we further examine Hawai‘i’s position within this intersection?” Below are some highlights from the event.

Screening of the short film

Screening of the short film “Blackbird” directed by Amie Batalibasi (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

The presentation of two short films served as primers for conversations contrasting a Black experience in the Pacific and an African-American experience in Hawai‘i. Blackbird, written and directed by Australian Solomon Islander Amie Batalibasi, tells the story of Solomon Islander siblings Rosa & Kiko who were kidnapped from their island home to work on a sugar cane plantation in Queensland, Australia in the late 1800s. Blackbird situated the historical realities of slavery in the Pacific so that we could think about how that history reverberates into the present day. A post-screening talk emphasized that the concept of Blackness in the Pacific takes on complex forms from an indigenous perspective: Dr. Ponipate Rokolekutu who researches the economic marginalization of iTaukei (Native Fijians) in the colonial experience and has contributed critical perspectives on the political impacts of the notion of “Melanesia” or a “Black Pacific” as a unifying identity in Pacific politics, was joined by Dr. Luafata Simanu-Klutz whose research, poetry, and playwriting focus on the often unknown aspects of Pacific women’s history, especially in political representation and empowerment in resistance to colonial forces.

Dr. Ponipate Rokolekutu and Dr. Luafata Simanu-Klutz discussing the experience of Blackness in the Pacific, moderated by Dr. Akiemi Glenn. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

Dr. Ponipate Rokolekutu and Dr. Luafata Simanu-Klutz discussing the experience of Blackness in the Pacific, moderated by Dr. Akiemi Glenn. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

In response to the question of how a European conception of Blackness entered into the Pacific, Dr. Simanu-Klutz said: “the politics of color among Pacific Islanders…is becoming more and more obvious in the younger generations reviving some of language that was derogatory during the colonial period, such as the term ‘afakasi,’ which was the term for the ‘hapa,’ or what we call the half-caste children, of Euro-American and Samoan parents. The revival of that term is something that needs to be talked about because millenials are coming out saying that it’s okay to be that, there’s nothing wrong to be ‘afakasi’…but, for people like me [who are darker skinned], what does that mean? ‘Afakasi’ with lighter skin was also very privileged—they were well received in both worlds. I worry that our young generations may be thinking that Blackness or the politics of color began with the colonizers, but let’s look before the colonizers to really understand what it means to be Black and to be dark. Because, in the islands, we have our own different terms.”

Dr. Ponipate Rokolekutu expanded upon the nuances of Blackness from the perspective of a Native Fijian, which goes beyond the black/white dichotomy: “The concept of the notion of ‘Black’ and the experiences of Blackness is complex in the context of the islands of the Pacific, in the context of Oceania. In the United States, it’s a binary…In the context of the Pacific Islands, it’s complex. What you see as ‘Black’ in the United States is not necessarily ‘Black’ to Pacific Islanders.  When we talk about Tongans or Samoans or Polynesians, we don’t talk about ‘Whiteness:’ there is a concept that we use that is not necessarily ‘white’—and that is ‘red.’ The concept of ‘damudamu,’ [meaning] red…means something that is reddish. It connotes superiority, it connotes the idea of something that is delightful to look at. That is how we conceptualized ‘Whiteness’ in the islands of the Pacific, at least in the perspective of a Native Fijian.”

The short film Healing Traditions, created by The Popolo Project, a multimedia exploration of Blackness in Hawai‘i and the larger Pacific, localized the Black experience to Hawai‘i. It provided an optimistic view that healing from historical trauma is possible and that, in the Pacific, our relationship to the ocean is an important catalyst for that healing process. The film follows activist and Hawai‘i-based member of Black Lives Matter Prentis Hemphill as she describes her experience learning how to swim.

As moderator, Dr. Akiemi Glenn, founder and curator of The Popolo Project, wove connections between the first and second talk, unearthing intersections between the Pacific, Hawai‘i, and African-American experiences. When featured speaker Ta-Nehisi Coates joined Glenn on stage, it was eye-opening to see how the topics Coates addresses in his work – such as housing issues, reparations, and his analysis of Barack Obama – applies to the conversation of race and community in Hawai?i and the larger Pacific.

Dr. Akiemi Glenn and Ta-Nehisi Coates (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

Dr. Akiemi Glenn and Ta-Nehisi Coates (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

Coates’ recent visit to Australia set an appropriate framework for a conversation about expanding the notion of Blackness beyond the borders of our American imagination: “You have no idea what it means to grow up in West Baltimore where I’m from, to go to Washington D.C. where I went to college and met my wife and even to move to up New York and be in that, as I am increasingly learning, narrow world and have Blackness come to mean something to you – and then to go all the way to Australia, all the way to the side of the world, and to meet people who call themselves Black there…I didn’t expect, in the things I reflected on in my very narrow American view of what blackness meant, to find sisters and brothers all the way on the other side of the world. There’s a second, tragic part to that…What does it mean to go about as far from Europe as you possibly can, to be as far away from Europe as you possibly can, and for Whiteness to find you anyway? I don’t mean for people with blue eyes to find you, I don’t mean for people with blonde hair to find you, I mean people who have erected in ideology around the blue eyes and blonde hair, which justifies the extraction of wealth from other people.  To be that far away and to find that present and to find people in such deep pain that far away and then to come back here [to Hawai‘i ]…I have quite a bit to think about.”

Coates went on to remark on how systems of oppression as human constructs became more clear in his travels abroad: “What you see is that these systems are made, they don’t evolve….Human beings decide X, Y, and Z is going to be true and then results flow out from that. And so if they can be made, then in fact they can be unmade.” In the exchange of ideas that followed, Coates and Glenn questioned existing mythologies in American history and the extent to which myths can be re-invented or unmade in order to reconstruct ideologies of race and identity.

Glenn situated Hawai?i within an American historical context, sharing her view on the reverberations of the American Civil War on Hawai‘i’s history: “For me, part of what seemed to happened after the Civil War is that the United States wanted to have a national project together—pushing the boundaries of empire seemed to be a really important one. And so, thirty years later after the end of the Civil War, we see 1898 [Spanish-American War], we see the [American influence in the] Caribbean, we see [American influence in] the Philippines, and we see Hawai‘i being involved in part of that project,” evoking the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the American Occupation of Hawai?i.  She went on to articulate how issues of incarceration and criminalization take shape in Hawai?i as it does in North America: “We’re in the midst of a housing crisis. Here as elsewhere, what happens is that poverty is criminalized. We have a criminal justice situation here, in terms of where our incarcerated people are. The Sagauro Correctional Center is in Arizona. The majority of our incarcerated males are there instead of here in Hawai?i, and a majority of those males who are incarcerated are Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders. Those stats are very similar to what we see with Black people in the U.S. and North American context. We’ve been having this conversation about what empire looks like, creeping, and these are systems that have been made.” She asked Coates about his perspective on the expansion of the carceral state in America and elsewhere.

Coates responded: “I think when you think about the carceral state in America, it is the thing I have the hardest time imagining being unmade at this point and probably my deepest source of skepticism about the idea of a post-racist society.” He went on to expand upon the staggering incarceration rates on a national and global level, then he evoked the problem of American storytelling in relation to our historical realities: “How does [America] begin to develop some sort of ethic that says there should be substantial decarceration? How does it begin to tell itself a different story that combats literally centuries of telling itself another story?…This is, as you exemplified, not just a problem for black people: it’s always the fact that this spills over, and there are other victims who suffer for it.”

Glenn again situated Hawai?i in relation to North American movements: “You talking about these myths that the United States has given us makes me think about Hawai?i and the myths about race here in Hawai?i ….I think about how Hawai‘i was made a State in 1959, right around the same time the Civil Rights movement was growing and becoming something that people couldn’t ignore in North America. In the work that I’ve done, it has been really striking to see how the commitment to presenting Hawai?i as a racial paradise pairs with the criminalization, the continued criminalization, of Black people and how Hawai‘i serves as a foil to that….”

“What do you think about the presentation of Hawai?i in President Obama’s memoir?” Coates asked.

“It’s a good question…,” Glenn said. “One of the things that I find in the work that I do with the Popolo Project is that the experiences of Black folks who grew up here are very different from those who have come here as adults….Race operates very differently here. You mentioned the binary we have in North America: black or white are the categories we see people in. In Hawai‘i, there’s a lot of mixed race individuals who are able to be multiple things at once, which is a little different than how it works elsewhere. But at the same time, the racial paradise—in which everyone is friends, everyone is fine—seems to be complicated by the facts in a couple of ways: for someone like Obama or any of us Black folks here, Black people make up a very small number of the population. We’re around two percent of the population here…We can also talk about how Black folks are overrepresented in the military and end up being the face of Blackness here in Hawai‘i, which is an issue….It seems that people need that story that there is a place in America where everything is okay, where everyone can show up and be safe and fine.”

Glenn then asked Coates, “Why do you think we need these myths? There’s a whole storybook of them: there’s the racial paradise of Hawai‘i, there’s the American dream…”

“I think people find it very difficult to get through the world without myths. I think  the world’s a very difficult and tough place. And I think people want to believe that humans can be better than they are…,” Coates said. “As we critique these myths, I would ask two questions: 1) is it true that human beings generally need myths period?…and 2) What myths will we replace [existing myths] with?  Are myths actually useful, even if they don’t tell the whole truth?….The myths that have traditionally undergirded America are actually under assault more than people actually realize….Who gets to have myths and who doesn’t? We’re in this period where a lot of ideas are under assault. It is one the few things I’m actually hopeful about. But what are we going to replace them with? Do we need to replace them? And will we in turn replicate our own half-truths in doing that?”

Coates and Glenn discussed the impacts of the film and comic Black Panther. Glenn expressed how Black Panther “speaks to Hawai‘i, how Wakanda is an example for what Hawai‘i could look like when it’s de-colonized.” Glenn asked Coates a question that opened up the possibilities of building a more globalized view of Blackness: “I wonder in your writing for Black Panther, in your work more generally, or even in your recent travels, have you thought about or reckoned with the concept of indigeneity, thinking about the kinship ties and ties to the land?”

Coates was open and honest in expressing that, currently, he does not know enough to be able to speak intelligently to the question of global kinship and indigeneity. “It is pretty clear that the people who oppress us are finding kinship around the world. Whiteness is very clearly making ties around the world. What our [global kindship] looks like is a new question for me….,” Coates responded. “I was raised in a heavy nationalist, Pan-African household, and so I have the imagined part of it, that’s probably what I use in a lot of Black Pantherˆ… but the hardcore practical aspect of it, which I try to bring to bear in, for instance, my work on incarceration or reparations…I can’t give answers [about indigeneity and global kinship] that informed yet. I just don’t know enough yet….” Glenn asked him about the questions he grapples with in regards to indigeneity. “What am I supposed to do as a black writer?” Coates replied. “Because in my writing, the foe in general is American Whiteness, that’s what I know, that’s what I write about, but is there a way of me doing that that is more globalized? That’s harder than it sounds….I have to know on some deep profound level what I’m talking about in order to speak. For me, the threshold to speak globally would be to look at the aboriginal experience, look at the black experience in Australia [and elsewhere] and be able to speak with that kind of specificity. And then I can make real links in an intelligent way….There is a level I’m really trying to get to, that hopefully I’ll be able to get to. There are questions even in my limited world that I still haven’t answered.”

The challenge of expanding our understanding of race, identity, and systems of oppression beyond existing borders is all too real. On one level, Coates’s perspective and understanding of American history, political movements, and myth-making helped us think about how the African-American experience on the continent is relevant to race relations in Hawai?i and, reciprocally, Glenn’s input presented how Hawai‘i informs a deeper understanding of America. On another level, through that exchange, a more globalized landscape of questioning opened up, one which needs to be further explored and which we all are striving to plant our feet on.

Kamakakehau Fernandez performs during the post-talk reception. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

Kamakakehau Fernandez performs during the post-talk reception. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

Ta-Nehisi Coates with the Honolulu African American Film Festival committee: Ethan Caldwell, Marsha McFadden, Tadia Rice, Sharon Yarbrough, Akiemi Glenn, Sandra Simms, Daphne Barbee-Wooten, Taylour Chang, and John Nichols. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

Ta-Nehisi Coates with the Honolulu African American Film Festival committee: Ethan Caldwell, Marsha McFadden, Tadia Rice, Sharon Yarbrough, Akiemi Glenn, Sandra Simms, Daphne Barbee-Wooten, Taylour Chang, and John Nichols. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

After the program, attendees carry on the conversation in the Luce Pavilion. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

After the program, attendees carry on the conversation in the Luce Pavilion. (Photo: Shuzo Uemoto)

9 days ago |
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As Korean Cinema is underway at Doris Duke Theatre, the museum is about to welcome two special guests, Korean filmmakers Jeong Ga-young and Jung Eun-kung, for post-screening Q&A’s this week. You may have seen their names when checking out the indie films Hit the Night and Beautiful Vampire.

In Jeong Ga-young’s movie, which flips the romantic comedy narrative on its head and starts screening on Sept. 6, a young female filmmaker interviews a male friend over a long night of drinking under the ruse of being research for her new film. The already frank questions about his sex life and relationships get more and more personal, and soon, her agenda is revealed.

Jung Eun-kung’s movie, which screens Sept. 7 and 8, also has a strong female protagonist. In her Beautiful Vampire, the leading character falls in love with a human—more specifically, her human landlord’s son. Humor and drama ensue, of course.

These two female directors are at the forefront of what we should expect from Korea’s film industry. HoMA had the chance to ask them a few questions about their careers and films. Attend their respective screenings to ask them even more questions!

Jeong Ga-young:

How did you get to where you are now?

I have written novels, composed music, and made movies before, but the reason I continue to make movies is because they receive the best reactions from those around me. I am very satisfied with what I currently do.

Your film challenges the male gaze and has a theme of female empowerment, how does that play into what you want audiences to take away from seeing your film?

I did not really have a separate intent for the audience to take in the theme of the movie in a certain way. I would be glad simply if the audience found the conversation between the characters refreshing and entertaining.

What is it like to be a contemporary female director in a male-dominated industry?

I am still making films within the “indie scene” (not affiliated with a large filming company/making independent films) so I have not yet developed a particular standpoint towards this subject area. However, whether a male or female, I hope screenwriters who have a refreshing and youthful touch continue to emerge and create stories that have their own different charm from those of existing Korean movies. I believe that these changes are gradually beginning to show.

Jung Eun-kung:

How did you get to where you are now?

Since I can remember, I was regaled by stories—whether it is watching movies, reading books, performing in a play or producing one with my siblings for my parents. However, I didn’t have the guts to pursue the career of ‘making stories’ for a long time. I ended up working in the entertainment industry in a position where I worked with storytellers instead of being one myself. After a while, there came the moment where I had reached my limit of hesitation and had to admit that I do want to write and direct. So, that’s how I got to where I am now.

What inspired the choice to have Ran be a vampire?

Actually, ‘vampire’ came first and then ‘Ran’. My producer first reached me with an idea involving ‘a male vampire make-up artist.’ I thought it was an interesting try to combine ‘make-up’ and ‘vampire’ since vampires, in my mind, possess certain aesthetic qualities. What I wanted to add to the story was how living as a vampire could resonate with being an outsider… That’s how I created the character ‘Ran.’ 

What is your favorite vampire movie? Why?

Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson, for so many reasons: the characters are interesting, the relationships between the characters are intriguing, cinematography and the whole production design are arresting and so on.

14 days ago |
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The November 1942 issue of the Academy’s News Bulletin and Calendar features this note about the Honolulu Printmakers’ fourteenth annual exhibition: “When it is remembered that … almost every artist submitting prints is either actively engaged in defense work or doing volunteer work in connection with the war effort in addition to his civilian occupation, this exhibition gains considerably in significance.”

This and 650 other issues of the museum’s member publication, dating from 1928 to 2017, are now online and searchable via UH’s eVols digital repository. With the exception of five years during the 1950s during which it was strictly a calendar, the publication presents research on collections, interviews with artists, and articles about exhibitions and programs—many of which are written by museum curators and guest curators. This digitization project, a partnership between the HoMA Archives and the University of Hawai‘i, was supported in part by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities.

For me, one of the most interesting things about the collection is its 90-year scope and the opportunity it provides to observe the changing world through the lens of art: whereas early 1940s bulletins are concerned with the role of art and artists in times of war, later issues document artists and curators exploring questions around culture, land, displacement, and the built environment.

I also noted with some amusement—and nostalgia—the changes in language over the years: “travel along the Electronic Superhighway to Cybertown,” reads the description of an Academy/KCC “mini-course” in contemporary art (the course concluded with a discussion of the work of Nam June Paik).

Students in the galleries from a Sept. 1938 Educational Bulletin.

Students in the galleries from a Sept. 1938 Educational Bulletin.

What remains constant, though, is the steady flow of students going through the museum and art school.

Mahalo to HCH, to our partners at UH, and to former art school registrar and archives volunteer Kelsey Karsin for helping us to make this collection more widely accessible.

Check out the collection here.

19 days ago |
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School is now in session! Stop by the Museum Shop to get your keiki all the necessary tools they need to express their creativity and make their mark on this year! Here are our top picks.

Japanese company good morning has found the perfect balance between minimalist and adorable with their standing calendars. In fact, they’ve won several awards this year for their work, including the IDA (International Design Awards): Bronze Award.

Never forget the date with good morning's calendars.

Never forget the date with good morning’s calendars.

The Shop features several different styles of good morning calendars, from this charming swinging bench ($24.95) to this endearing bicycle ($24.95). Your kiddo will adore their new desk addition.

Dress up your desk with this calendar.

Dress up your desk with this calendar.

Some new children’s books ($19.95) just hit the Museum Shop shelves, and are perfect for the little ones to flip through. They feature artists such as Yayoi Kusama, who is taking the world by storm with her trippy installations.

With her trippy installations, Yayoi Kusama is one artist taking the world by storm.

Kids won’t be able to peel their eyes away from this storybook.

They’ll undeniably be inspired by these captivating and colorful illustrated storybooks (which are arguably artworks in and of themselves).

Taking notes and drawing doodles have never been more fun with these OOLY Kaleidoscope Multi-Colored Pencils ($19.95)! Each pencil contains five different colors.

Capture all the colors of the rainbow with these pencils.

Capture all the colors of the rainbow with these pencils.

Just look at all those colors!

Just look at all those colors!

When you stock up at the Museum Shop, you are directly supporting the museum—all proceeds go into museum programs and operations, not shareholders’ dividends. In a way, by shopping at the museum, you’re giving back to the community—which includes you! Questions? Call the Museum Shop at 532-8704.

20 days ago |
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Born in Lebanon, Bahia Shehab has a long list of accolades. She is an artist, designer, art historian, associate professor of design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo, the first Arab woman to receive the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, a former TED fellow and Senior fellow, and while the list could go on for quite some time, you get the idea.

Most recently though, she was an artist in residence at Shangri La. From Aug. 9-22, she studied Doris Duke’s collection of Islamic art and also installed an onsite mural called My People. On Sept. 27, her residency will culminate with the opening of an exhibition in the Arts of Islamic Gallery. Earlier this month, Shehab stopped by the museum to tell us more about the upcoming exhibition.

Tell me about the exhibition you’re installing.

The exhibition is called The Reflections of Shangri La and as an artist and also as an Islamic art historian, it was intriguing for me to look at the collection through the eyes of the woman who has put it together… I noticed that in a lot of the artwork that she collected, there are women but many of them are very small or miniature illustrations. But they do depict the life of women from different dynasties, so you have a woman who is a courtesan dancing in a court or a woman who is sitting in her house having a drink with her cat, a woman who is weaving, a woman who is reading—but they are always hidden and on small artifacts in different parts of the collection. But by bringing them together and having them on display and blowing their size up, you get to really see the life of these women and you can reflect on their daily activities, their social status, the way they dress, how they made themselves beautiful—but it also makes you look at them as women and not as the other, and this a very important message that I’d like the viewers to see. These small women have been blown almost to the size of a real-life human being so when you walk into the room, you are meeting the women of Shangri La, who are the women of different dynasties of the different centuries of Islamic rule.

One of the everyday women viewers will be able to see in Shehab's exhibition.

One of the everyday women viewers will be able to see in Shehab’s exhibition.

How many women are going to be featured?

Somewhere between 18 and 15.

What do you want viewers to feel or think when they see your exhibition?

Actually, we are going to install a mirror between the women. So when you walk in, I want you to relate if you are a woman. You would feel empowered by that space, you would feel comfortable, but also you would relate to the humanity of the artwork of these other women from different backgrounds.

How does activism lend a hand to your artwork?

Women. I think women’s rights are human rights but I think we need more of a push for it because we’re always struggling in the workplace, as mothers, as working women. This is a global thing, it’s not limited to one part of the world. Women are not getting equal pay from most of the world. Women are not getting proper maternity leave in all of the world, they’re not getting breastfeeding rights in parts of the world, so basic human rights to me are very important and that aspect, just showing women, other women, and showing them empowered in an exhibition space, that is very important for me.

20 days ago |
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Join Director Sean O’Harrow and supporters of the Honolulu Museum of Art on a contemporary art tour to Japan!  We will be visiting Kyoto, Naoshima and neighboring islands, as well as Tokyo, from Nov. 10-17, 2019. This trip promises to be an unforgettable tour of artistic textures and styles that highlight Japan’s beautiful craftsmanship and groundbreaking contemporary art.

November is the perfect time to view the changing fall leaves in Kyoto and we will provide time to enjoy the spa and serene art landscape of the renowned contemporary art destination of Naoshima Island. We will travel by bullet train to the bustling capital of Tokyo, where we will learn about the evolution of manga from the traditional woodblock prints to today’s popular books and videos and experience the fanciful and eclectic subculture fashion of the Harajuku district.  

Trip highlights:

  • Private studio and workshop visits with contemporary Kyoto artisans of ceramic and washi-paper textures.
  • View the changing autumn maple leaves of the fall in immaculate temple gardens of Kyoto.
  • A two-night stay on Naoshima Island at the famed Benesse House with private tours during the day to major art museums and site-specific architecture on Naoshima, Inujima and Teshima islands.
  • Special guided tours at the Mori Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and newly opened Yayoi Kasuma Museum in Tokyo.
  • An architecture tour through Omotosando of the luxury designed retail stores, and into the heart of the Harajuku district to witness the expressive eccentric fashion with a Harajuku ambassador.
  • An exploration of food from traditional Japanese kaiseki or ‘set menu’ dinners, European influenced fusion dishes, to robatayaki or ‘fireside barbecue’ cooking. See the full itinerary for more details.

See the full itinerary for more details.

Reservations and a deposit must be made by Feb. 1, 2019. The trip will require a minimum of 32 individuals to secure the listed price. If you would like a printed version of the itinerary or if you have questions, please contact Ching Jen Lum at gro.muesumululonohnull@mulc or at (808) 532-3671.

See you in Japan!

22 days ago |
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