Hawaii Triennial Celebrates the Significance of Place

In a time of great change, reflection on Indigenous knowledge and local stories that impact contemporary art has brought together 43 artists and collectives from Hawaii, regions united by the Pacific Ocean, and beyond, in the largest periodic showcase of contemporary art in Hawaii. The Hawaii Triennial 2022 (HT22): Pacific Century — E Hoomau no Moanauiākea opened February 18, 2022 and runs through May 8, 2022, across seven exhibition venues on Oahu.

Feature image: Hawai‘i Contemporary by Lila Lee

Hawaii Triennial, Oahu
Photo: Bishop Museum/Kelli-Bullock-Hergert

The Honolulu-wide exhibition is organized by Hawaii Contemporary, a Honolulu-based non-profit organization, and includes exhibits at: Bishop Museum, Foster Botanical Garden, Hawaii Theatre Center, Hawaii State Art Museum (HISAM), Iolani Palace, Honolulu Museum of Art, and Royal Hawaiian Center. While HT22 is still open through May 8, the exhibits at the Hawaii State Art Museum (HISAM) will run through December, 2022.

Hawaii Triennial, Oahu
Photo: HiSAM Piliāmo‘o/Brandyn Liu

After the close of HT22, exhibits by Ai Weiwei and Leeroy New at Foster Botanical Garden will still be available to view as part of an extended, twilight experience for Hawaii Triennial. Special after-hours docent-led tours will be held on May 15 and 16, 2022.

The exhibits at the Hawaii State Art Museum (HISAM) that will continue through December, 2022, include artists who exemplify the Triennial’s aim in celebrating the Pacific Century and reestablishing Hawaii’s location as the piko of the Pacific — not merely the edge of the North American map: Ai Pōhaku Press, Elepaio Press, Nā Maka O Ka Āina, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Piliāmoo, and Lawrence Seward.

Hawaii Triennial, Oahu
Photo: Iolani Palace/Harvest Moon

Ai Pōhaku Press, established by Maile Meyer and Barbara Pope, originated as an act of healing to mark the 100th anniversary (in 1993) of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The press focuses on enduring Hawaiian worldviews and resisting structures and systems of settler colonialism. For HT22, Ai Pōhaku has contributed a study room that contains publications, portraits of elders, reproductions of book covers, historical maps, a poem, and a lauhala moena (woven mat). 

Elepaio Press (co-founded by brothers Richard and Mark Hamasaki) has been active for nearly half a century and focuses on the experiences of local and Indigenous articst. The press’ collaborative approach to publishing has generated a network of relationships between communities in Hawaii and abroad. For HT22, Elepaio presents a selection of pietic and politically conscious projects from more than 50 years of collaboration throughout Oceania.

Hawaii Triennial, Oahu, Culture
Photo: Dan Taulapapa McMullin

Nā Maka O Ka Āina, the independent video production team of Joan Lander and Puhipau, emerged from social and environmental justice movements across the Hawaiian archipelago in the 1970s. The two have worked together to document and perpetuate Hawaiian culture, history, language, art, music, dance, environment, and the politics of independence and self-determination. For HT22, Nā Maka O Ka Āina presents some of their most important documentaries.

Hawaii Triennial, Oahu
Photo: Foster Botanical Garden/Lila Lee

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a poet, artist, activist, and educator committed to perpetuating her language, culture, community, and home. She’s played a vital role in advancing intergenerational stories of Native Hawaiian excellence, diplomacy, and resistance. For HT22, Osario contributed a composition, When I Think of Ea, that was performed at Iolani Palace on February 18, 2022. An audio recording of the poem is available on the HT22 site.   

Piliāmoo (a collaborative between Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki) is deeply rooted in the particularities of place, documenting transformations across the ahupuaa (a Hawaiian subdivision of land) of Koolaupoko on the island of Oahu for more than 30 years — including the water struggle of Waiāhole, Interstate H-3 in Kāmrohe, and the modernization of Kailua. For HT22, they display photographs from the ongoing and iterative Ē Luku Wale Ē: Devastation Upon Devastation.

Hawaii Triennial, Oahu, Culture
Photo: Miao Ying - Hardcore Digital Detox at Royal Hawaiian Center/Lila Lee

Lawrence Seward’s work — whether it takes the form of drawings, paintings, publications, sculptures, videos, or installations — frequently deploys tropical kitsch aesthetics to interrogate notions of “paradise.” For HT22, he continues to explore the desire to escape through a free taboid newspaper at custom vending machines across HT22 locations and community venues.

As travelers dive deeper into narratives of place in the return to destinations post-pandemic, the Hawaii Triennial 2022 (HT22): Pacific Century — E Hoomau no Moanauiākea is an essential event that gives insight into Hawaii and its unique location at the confluence of Asia-Pacific and Oceania.

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