IN TONGUES seeks to bring into question the religious dedication that the colonizer’s world view has made to normalize the idea that non-western indigenous peoples are required to submit and package themselves, their names, their language, their culture... to appease the colonizer’s tongue.
Lala Openi & Kaleipumehana invite you to sit and interact with each of the three environments, which serve as separate but related vignettes focusing on things that sit on the tongue: Language, Food Systems in a Militarized State, and the role of Marketing Slogans & Legislation in creating a false sense of “Paradise”.
WE ARE ALL LUCKY TO BE HERE. HONOR THIS ISLAND, OUR HOME, BY GETTING EDUCATED + GETTING INVOLVED! TO UNPLUG FROM THE MATRIX + LEARN ABOUT ORGANIZATIONS DOING THE WORK HERE ON O’AHU, VISIT THE LINX BELOW EACH SECTION.
IN TONGUES explores just a few of the effects that colonization has had on the cultural health & well-being of people in Hawaiʻi. Oʻahu is motherland to a resilient people who once lived a completely sustainable lifestyle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with the nearest land mass being 2259 miles away. The few indigenous Hawaiian people who have survived colonization now live to see the day where the agricultural land of their ancestors has been turned to fruit a different kind of wealth: real estate. With more and more land being turned into real estate to support the main remaining economy (tourism), Hawaiʻi is now almost completely and utterly dependent, relying on outside shipments to provide 90% of our food from off-island.
Openi & Kaleipumehana created an interactive art installation for Reimagining Waikīkī: An Interactive Penthouse Art Experience at the Surfjack in Waikīkī for CONTACT ZONE, and invited people to sit and interact with each of the three environments. Each of them served as separate but related vignettes focusing on things that sit on the tongue: Language, Food Systems in a Militarized State, and the role of Marketing Slogans & Legislation in creating a false sense of “Paradise”.
Big love to everyone who came to disrupt public spaces as we educate & liberate through art!
Photos by: Jared Perez & Lala Openi
SURVIVING ON SPAM
SPAM as an embodiment of Food Systems in a Militarized State
O'ahu is motherland to a resilient people who once lived a completely sustainable lifestyle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with the nearest land mass being 2259 miles away. The few indigenous Hawaiian people who have survived colonization now live to see the day where the agricultural land of their ancestors has been turned to fruit a different kind of wealth: real estate. With more and more land being turned into real estate to support the main remaining economy (tourism), Hawai'i is now almost completely and utterly dependent. As it stands, we rely on imported shipments to provide roughly 90% of our food from off-island.
During WWII, Hawai'i was a warzone. The US was paranoid and Hawai'i was placed under martial law from 1941 (after Pearl Harbor) through 1944, the longest period of martial law ever placed over an American civilian population. The US also banned Japanese fishermen and put heavy control on food systems in Hawai'i. With agricultural land being seized / destroyed / contaminated by the military, and due to by geographic isolation, food was limited, and Spam was readily available. The excess military-issued Spam provided a protein and fat source with endless shelf life, and after the war and it remained a staple in the diets of the people of Hawai'i.
RESOURCES FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
NO REST IN PARADISE
The role of Marketing Slogans & Legislation in creating a false sense of “Paradise”
The grass isn’t always greener - this lounge chair is the only one in the exhibit which visitors will not be able to sit on — as it will be covered in nails — mirroring the pain and discomfort caused by Sit & Lie legislation, which prohibit houseless* folks from sitting or sleeping on sidewalks or bus stops. They are actively being removed from areas that are becoming more and more gentrified by way of tourism and real estate developments – despite those areas also being key locations for services and shelter.
The primary industry in Hawaiʻi (tourism) relies on marketing the islands as a vacation destination. While tourism is a main driver of local economy, it also puts a monopoly on job opportunities, increases the cost of living and causes displacement. Homelessness and houselessness is prosecutable by law, which can be seen with the Sit & Lie laws that criminalize houseless folks and push them out of prime real estate locations. While some feel this makes Waikīkī and Honolulu more attractive to visitors, it displaces a vast number of individuals who cannot afford the ever-increasing cost of living.
*Houseless: A large portion of our “homeless” population (42% as of 2016) is comprised of Native Hawaiians. These individuals are described as “houseless” because while they will always have a home (their native land of Hawaiʻi), they do not have access to a house in which to live.
Resources in Support of Equitable Legislation
or Law of the Splintered Paddle (also translated Law of the Splintered Oar), is a precept in Hawaiian law, originating with King Kamehameha I in 1797. The law, "Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety," is enshrined in the state constitution, Article 9, Section 10. It was created when Kamehameha was on a military expedition in Puna. His party encountered a group of commoners on a beach. While chasing two fishermen who had stayed behind to cover the retreat of a man carrying a child, Kamehameha's leg was caught in the reef. One of the fisherman, Kaleleiki, hit him mightily on the head with a paddle in defense, which broke into pieces. Kamehameha could have been killed at that point but the fisherman spared him. Years later, the same fisherman was brought before Kamehameha. Instead of ordering for him to be killed, Kamehameha ruled that the fisherman had only been protecting his land and family, and so the Law of the Splintered Paddle was declared.
- Young Progressives Demanding Action:
About: “We are the Hawaiʻi chapter of Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA). Formerly the Oʻahu Students for Bernie Sanders, a student-led organization that campaigned for Senator Sanders during his 2016 Presidential bid, we played a major role in securing 70 percent of the democratic primary vote Hawaiʻi.”
- (Not so) Fun Fact: To afford a 1-bedroom apartment on a minimum wage salary ($925/hr), you would have to work 116 hrs/wk
- National Low Income Housing Coalition:
Info on minimum wage, cost of living, etc. in Hawaiʻi
- 2017 Point in Time Count by Partners in Care & Bridging the Gap: About: The 2017 Point-In-Time Count (PIT) represents the best available data to estimate a one-day homeless prevalence for the State of Hawaii. The primary objective of the count is to obtain a reliable estimate of the sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families at a specific point in time. PIT data collection is an integral part of local and national planning and acts in support of policy and resource allocations.
- Partners in Care
- Bridging the Gap
- Civil Beat, Article: “Hawaii Homelessness”
- Film: “Then There Were None” (1996), written & directed by Elizabeth Lindsey ( Watch the Trailer here )
About: “A personal story of the effects of colonization on the Hawaiian people is brilliantly told in this award-winning documentary.”
DVD available at: Pacific Islanders in Communication: https://www.piccom.org/pages/then-there-were-none-dvd
- Nā Mea Hawaiʻi: https://www.nameahawaii.com/product/then-there-were-none/
A recognition that respecting Language is the first step in respecting culture.
Ōlelo Hawaiʻi (Native Hawaiian language) is sacred. However, in modern Hawaiʻi, it can also be linked to tourism, marketing and commodification of culture. While some visitors and residents easily adopt Hawaiian words such as “aloha” and “mahalo” during their time here, other Hawaiian words and names are often mispronounced & disrespected. Many of our kūpuna (ancestors/elders) were beaten for speaking Hawaiian in school and, at one point, the law required children to be given a Christian first name, moving Hawaiian to middle names (or out of the picture). Experiences like this are all too common for indigenous people of color so we invite you to take a moment to learn, practice and respect our names – as well as our native tongues.
Resources & organizations doing the work:
- Book: Nānā I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source) Vol.1, by Mary Kawena Pukui, E. W. Haertig & Catherine A. Lee
About: Nānā I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source) is dedicated to the families and children of Hawaii. It is a source book of Hawaiian cultural practices, concepts and beliefs which illustrate the wisdom and dignity contained in the cultural roots of every Hawaiian child.
Available online at here.
- Categories for Naming in Hawaiian: Inoa Kupuna, Inoa Hō‘ailona, Inoa Ho‘omana‘o, Inoa Pō, Inoa ‘Ūlāleo, Inoa Kūamuamu
- More information can be found in Nānā I Ke Kumu & online here.
- Aha Pūnana Leo:
About: “The Aha Pūnana Leo is a Native Hawaiian nonprofit that was established in 1983 with a vision of ‘E Ola Ka Ōlelo Hawai’i’ (The Hawaiian Language Shall Live) and a mission to revitalize the Hawaiian language as a living language in Hawaiʻi and beyond.”
- Hawaiʻi J20+
About: “Hawai‘i J20+ initiated our resistance on January 20, the day President Trump was inaugurated. The '+' signals our continued commitment. We act on shared concerns about Trump and his administration. Together we stand for equality; social, economic and environmental justice; women’s rights; reproductive rights; LGBTQIA+ rights; disability rights; freedom of religion and separation of church and state; criminal justice reform, restorative justice and community response models; sanctuary for immigrants and refugees; a free and independent press; and the strengthening of our social safety net - all of which the President and his cabinet appointments have threatened to undermine or gut. We welcome all who wish to join us in collective action!”
About: “AiKea is a growing movement of individuals & organizations who care about the future of Hawai’i and are committed to building a larger social & political movement.”
Campaigns include: We Are Waikiki & Affordable Housing for All
IN TONGUES was conceived by Lala Openi in collaboration with Kaleipumehana Cabral. Kaleipumehana is a a queer kanaka, creative, project manager, aspiring indigenous researcher & MSW based in Koʻolaupoko.